Monday, May 31, 2004

More News No One Will Care About 

If there is any real thought happening in America right now, you won't need me to tell you the details of the this story today. You should have been bombarded with it on the news on the way to work. Your friends or family should have mentioned it already by the time you've read this. Strangers in the streets.

A Pentagon e-mail said Vice President Dick Cheney's office "coordinated" a multibillion-dollar Iraq reconstruction contract awarded to his former employer Halliburton, Time magazine reported on Sunday.

The e-mail, sent by an Army Corps of Engineers official on March 5, 2003, said Douglas Feith, a senior Pentagon official, provided arrangements for the RIO contract, or Restore Iraqi Oil, between Halliburton and the U.S. government, Time said.

FYI, the war itself started on March 20th. Hans Blix et al were there until the 18th.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Thank You God, For Your Wonderful Healing Gift of Religion 

Roman Catholic gay-rights supporters wearing rainbow-colored sashes to Mass were denied communion Sunday, while dozens in Minnesota had to walk around protesters to receive the holy sacrament.

About 10 people wearing the sashes stood in line to receive communion at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, but priests refused to give them the Eucharist. One priest shook each person's hand; another made the sign of the cross on their foreheads.

Further down: A Vatican doctrinal decree last year directed at Catholic politicians said a well-formed conscience forbids support for any law that contradicts "fundamental" morality, with abortion listed first among relevant issues. A second Vatican statement said it is "gravely immoral" not to oppose legalization of same-sex unions.

The whole article is here. Meanwhile, Cardinal Law of Boston- an "unindicted coconspirator in serial child rape"- was promoted this week. Now, I know that most of you don't have to have it explained that consensual sex between two grown men or women is very different from nonconsensual sex with a little girl or boy. But which, to you, is a worse violation of "fundamental morality"- having knowledge of a multitude of child rape acts and failing to do a god damned thing to the people you know are doing it? Or someone having sex with somebody else you don't really want to have sex with?

(title courtesy of FLORAFOX)

Freudian Field Day 

We always suspected Bush might have gone after Saddam with just a wee bit of the old unresolved Oedipal Complex in play. But this is ridiculous:

President Bush keeps in his White House offices a trophy of one his high points in the Iraq war, the pistol that Saddam Hussein held when soldiers pulled him from his underground hideaway.

Castrating the guy who tried to kill your usually-absent dad and keeping it on display near the "oval" office?


Holy Crap. I knew I loved this game when I used Howard Dean's special move to bust a cap into John Ashcroft's mutated demon spirit.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Weekend Blog Outsourcing 

If Kerry beats Bush, it's the triumph of mediocrity over atrocity. Kerry's victory is not a victory for anyone, it's literally a life saving measure. So, I feel better, with that approach, about not really liking John Kerry all that much. Also, I have great hope that he will do much better than I think he will. But that is why it was to my great delight to discover the website:

Now, on to the normal Blog Outsourcing:

First off, Otters, bless her heart, has a thorough follow up to one of my own posts that is worth reading. And Kalends has some thoughts spawned by my coverage of the Maine Democratic Convention.

Secondly, Corrente is the third best blog in the blogosphere. I'll leave it up to you who 1 and 2 are.

Chris Brown with a question we should all be asking ourselves: Can we find some people on the other side of the aisle that we agree with? I am pretty sure I'm the guy who brought Olympia Snowe (R- Maine) to his attention. She's sort of a tamer, female (thus, pro-choice) McCain. She rejected abortion restrictions- including a no on banning military base abortions, partial birth abortions-, fought against measures to build oil drills off the coast of Maine, voted yes on making debt reduction more important than tax cuts, yes on the balanced budget constitutional amendment, added sexual orientation stuff to hate crimes bills, set 10% of highway funds for minorities and women, voted against funding abstinence education, against anwr drilling. She has a very republican view on crime- pro-death penalty, anti class action, anti corporate liability- but otherwise, she's a pretty good senator.

Over at the Dispatches from the Culture Wars blog, they have the transcript from a commencement speech by Jon Stewart.

Bloggg has got a good follow up on the whole Bill "Dice" Cosby routine from a while back, and an interesting look at his own background in education.

Invisible Library has another "Dispatch from Iraq".

Edward Pig has the scoop on how Iraq's money has been "managed" by a bunch of young punks fresh out of the Heritage Foundation's resume database. No lie.

Donkey Rising has some contrarian fun facts on Religion and Voting.

Upyernoz gets kicked off the GOP blog. Good for him! A juicy discussion ensues in his comments section.

g13 with everything you want to know about the new Iraqi Prime Minister.

BBWW on a showdown of sorts between Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly. If you were ever wondering, O'Reilly is less full of shit than Ann Coulter.

The Fulcrum has pretty rainbow pictures!

Steve Gilliard, who owes the LC a blogroll (or at least a round up) with some advice on how to write a letter complaining about media bias.

Oh, and did I mention there's a new post over at Gay Penguin for America? Because there is.

Friday, May 28, 2004

NRO Watch: Who's "Disconnected"? 

I've been struggling to incorporate "NRO" (National Review Online) into a play on the word "Morons", such as, for example, "NRON's", but it doesn't work too well. But really, "NRO" maybe ought to be synonymous. Take, for example, todays post by a reader of the column:

To date there have been about 673 soldier fatalities (all coalition forces) from hostile action. Although there were about 300,000 coalition forces at the beginning of the war in Iraq, the number has averaged conservatively somewhere around 150,000 since. If you do the math, the fatality rate due to hostile action is less than 1/2 of 1%. I dare say, that had the Pentagon and George Bush guaranteed that rate to the New York Times in March 2003, reporters would have proclaimed them conquering heros and named their first born George. So why the disconnect in today's reporting?. Well, do I really need to ask.

Shorter version: What is the media thinking? 800 Deaths is meaningless, according to the National Review Online, especially when viewed in comparison to other, larger numbers!

First off, as of today there have been 800 deaths as a result of the war in Iraq. There are 135,000 troops there. Now, you can do anything you want to minimize the impact of 800 deaths. Since we're looking at fractions, why not look at the percentage of the total American Population that has been killed in Iraq?

In 2000, the population of the United States was 281,421,906. So, that's only 1 out of every 351,777 American Citizens that has been killed in Iraq.

Why not go further? Since clearly, according to NRO readers, the total loss of life is not as important as those deaths in relation to those of us who are not fighting a war over nonexistent WMD's- apparently, I guess, because the NRO "supports the troops"- let's look at the number of people killed in relation to the population of the planet?

There's about 6.5 Billion people on planet Earth. That's just one out of every 8,125,000 planetary occupants. But hell, why stop there? Why don't we compare the number of deaths in Iraq to the number of people who have died, ever, in the history of the world?

According to snopes, "most demographers peg the number of dead at approximately 60 billion". In comparison to global statistics of deaths since the start of human history, only one in 75,000,000 deaths has been an American Soldier in Iraq.

So why is the media "disconnected" from the real deaths of 800 American soldiers, who are fighting a war against imaginary weapons? A war to fight terrorists that breeds terrorists? Why is the media disconnected when the NRO can look at numbers and fractions to determine that these deaths, really, are no big deal?

Well, do I really need to ask?

Sailboat Fuel 

Halliburton is paying truck drivers to drive empty trucks through Iraq.

"Thor," a driver who quit KBR and got his nickname for using a hammer to fight off a knife-wielding Iraqi who tried to climb into the cab of his truck, said his doctor recently told him he might lose the use of his right eye after a December attack. Iraqis shattered his windshield with machine gunfire and bullets whizzed by his ear. Glass got in his eye, and he broke two bones in his shoulder, he said.

His truck was empty at the time.


Iraqis threw spikes under his tires and a brick, a cement-like clot of sand and gasoline through his windshield, scattering shards of glass all over him and into his eyes.

"We didn't have no weapons; I had two rocks and a can of ravioli to fight with," Ratliff said.

Ratliff caught up with his fleeing convoy in his damaged truck and made it to the airport safely. He figured he'd pick up a load there, but he was told to return with another empty trailer.

On top of that, each round trip costs American Taxpayers "thousands of dollars".

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Consent Manufacturers Report 14% Increase In Sales 

You might know that the New York Times finally apologized for its lack of critical analysis of the build up to the Iraq War. The Bush Spectacle Machine got a pass and even encouragement thanks to the failures of the Times. (Disclosure: I really, still, think it's the best mainstream newspaper out there).

Salon has an interesting article on just how easy it was to manipulate the media, and Judith "Iraq Has The Bomb" Miller in particular:

A few months after the aluminum tubes story, a former CIA analyst, who has observed Miller's professional products and relationships for years, explained to me how simple it was to manipulate the correspondent and her newspaper.

"The White House had a perfect deal with Miller," he said. "Chalabi is providing the Bush people with the information they need to support their political objectives with Iraq, and he is supplying the same material to Judy Miller. Chalabi tips her on something and then she goes to the White House, which has already heard the same thing from Chalabi, and she gets it corroborated by some insider she always describes as a 'senior administration official.' She also got the Pentagon to confirm things for her, which made sense, since they were working so closely with Chalabi. Too bad Judy didn't spend a little more time talking to those of us in the intelligence community who had information that contradicted almost everything Chalabi said."

I tried to find a passage from Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent" that illuminates this principle better, and I can't, not without quoting an entire chapter. The relationship between Government Sources and the media might never be as elegantly described as the above little tidbit. But here, let's settle for this:

"In effect, the large bureaucracies of the powerful subsidize the mass media, and gain special access by their contribution to reducing the media's costs of acquiring the raw materials of, and producing, news. The large entities that provide this subsidy become "routine" news sources and have privileged access to the gates. Non-routine sources must struggle for access, and may be ignored by the arbitrary decision of the gatekeepers. It should also be noted that in the case of the largesse of the Pentagon and the State Department's Office of Public Diplomacy, the subsidy is at the taxpayers' expense, so that, in effect, the citizenry pays to be propagandized in the interest of powerful groups such as military contractors and other sponsors of state terrorism."

It's not a conspiracy per se, it's just a really convenient system that no one with any actual power wants to fix.

The Lisping King 

In response to this post over at the Blogging of the President, I posted this beast of a response:

Ever hear that old story about King Ferdinand's lisp? Ferdinand, the myth goes, lisped, and so, to avoid embarrasment, he ordered that all those in his kingdom also speak spanish with a lisp. That's why we order a plane ticket to Barcelona but hop a train to "Barthelona" once we're there.

Bush is having the same effect on how we understand terrorism, how we understand violence, and how we understand war. By no indirect means, this is also effecting how we view and understand the function of our own Democracy.

Bush is the guy who explained terrorism to most of America after 9/11. The War on Terror was a classic two valued orientation, but then the second value was obliterated. "You are either with us, or you are with the terrorists" is how people understood terrorism, as explained by our "leader": Slavoj Zizek pointed out that it isn't a choice. No one has the choice to be "with the terrorists."

Bush then does the same thing with the notion of "freedom", he arranges his words to indicate that terrorists "hate freedom". So if you are against Bush and with the terrorists, then you hate freedom too. The freedom that Bush is giving us is really nothing, it's a false freedom that directly contradicts the entire methodology of a liberal democracy.

So, it's no suprise to me that people in Iraq- legitimate "resistance fighters" (if you doubt this, check the new Harper's with Pat Graham's "Beyond Fallujah") against an occupation- are nevertheless constantly referred to as "terrorists" by the Bush admin. It masks what's really happening over in Iraq: largely a war orchestrated by Iraqi financial interests in a fight against American financial interests, with the religious martyr being the easiest and cheapest recruit.

When Bush says, in his speech on monday, that "The terrorists only influence is violence and their only agenda is death", he is not only masking the reality of the resistance in Iraq, he's also speaking about those would "stray the course" that Bush has set out. It's all one long continuous subliminable attack on Bush's opposition, and it is deeply coded in his language. Whether this is a brilliant manipulation by Rove, or an extension of Bush's psychologically-motivated interpersonal strategies is anyone's guess. But the language he's using is one of the most frightening things about Bush.

It's not so much the war, the environment, and jobs for me, as much as it is the steady annhilation of American Ideals that Bush's language and manipulations make possible. He has directed the culture not even towards a restricted binary of opposition, but towards an empty choice. There should be a multitude of political opposition- there are not "two sides" to these issues, there are at least a dozen- only two ever get represented. Under Bush, there is the sense that even the one alternative needs to be annhilated.

Terror is the means to accomplish this. We all knew Bush would escalate the threat warnings as we got closer and closer to election day. It is not to protect this country, it is to remind us of what is at stake, and it's at stake because of people who "hate freedom", who are terrorists- and terrorists are those who are against him. The language infiltrates even if you don't watch FOX, the language infiltrates even if you read left wing blogs exclusively, because we are forced to operate under the language of our king. We all lisp, or we are with the terrorists.

There's a joke that what is most at risk under GW Bush is the English language itself, usually attributed to his malapropisms and bungled spoonerisms, but there is a more serious threat, not to the English Language but to the language of American Discourse.

Stephanie Herseth? No Thanks. 

Via the DCCC, we learn that Republicans are pulling some dirty tricks against Stephanie Herseth. While this is cheap and really unbelievably sketchy, I have a hard time really caring about Herseth's election.

See: I gave money to Stephanie Herseth, and then she came out in favor of the Gay Marriage Amendment. Let's be clear: she is not on the annoying "civil unions, not gay marriage" side of the issue. She is not even on the "Gay Marriage / Civil Unions are a states rights issue" side. She is in favor of the amendment proposed by Congresswoman Musgrave and endorsed by President Bush which would expand the constitution to restrict the rights of Americans based on their sexual preference.

So while Democrats are trying to tout her win as a big blue slap in the face of the Republicans- which it is- it doesn't actually matter to anyone who holds a shred of progressive ideals. Stephanie Herseth is a symptom of a cowardly, diseased Democratic Party that, should it sweep into power in 2004, is ultimately going to disappoint any of us who actually believe in something beyond a Democratic Majority.

Meanwhile, there isn't much of an organized Green Party presence in South Dakota, so you basically have the choice to vote between a pro-war Republican or a Gay-Hating Democrat. Which side of Bush do you like best: his horrible domestic social conservatism and bowing to religious fundamentalists, or his deadly foreign policy agenda of arbitrary war and justified torture?

South Dakota, you only have four days to decide!

God Bless America 

The atoll, located 825 miles southwest of Honolulu, is a national a bird sanctuary. It also held more than 6 percent of the nation's stockpile of chemical weapons - 412,000 different types of explosives, mustard and nerve agents. Congress ordered the weapons destroyed in 1986.

So 1986? That's pretty close to 2002, when one of the fucking nerve gas shells detonated, miraculously causing harm to no one, including wildlife, or, apparently, the guy who actually exploded the fucking thing.

But really, now, how classic is it that Grandpa America was hiding a chemical weapons arsenal in a wildlife refuge off the coast of Hawaii? How funny is it that we gave Saddam Hussein three months to disarm his WMD's that didn't exist, but it was 16 years since we told ourselves to dismantle our own, actually-existing WMD's, and we're still sort of just getting around to it?


Through Todays AP story:

Cost of War In Afghanistan: $61 Billion
Cost of War In Iraq: $119 Billion

Just a quick reminder that Osama Bin Laden is in Afghanistan, not Iraq.

Also, thanks to Bush's brilliant strategy of American Unilateralism, you and I are footing the bill. In Gulf War 1, American taxpayers paid 4.7 Billion dollars for a war that cost $84 Billion because the costs were diversified amongst allied countries.

For Gulf War 2 (the second time as farce), we're footing the whole $119,000,000,000. Using Gulf War 1 stats, we'd only have had to pay 9.4 Billion (that's 100,000,000,000 less than we're spending now) if the Bush Spectacle Machine had actually been capable of leadership.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The Economics of Resistance 

I picked up Harper's today after bowling away my funk (you'd think that "doing something more productive" than blogging would involve something more romantic, but no. I bowled and was healed.) The issue is fantastic, not only for the in depth article on Leo Strauss and the Neo Cons, but also because of the cover story, written by a journalist who traveled Iraq's resistance circles by posing as the retarded brother of an Iraqi Doctor.

Here's something that caught my eye:

"A wealthy Sunni in Baghdad told me that some of the groups were being funded by businessmen he knew. They are outraged by the new foreign investment laws, which allow foreign companies to buy up factories for very little. Their revenues have collapsed, because the country has been flooded with foreign goods, and the increased wages now paid to the public sector are agitating their own poorly paid workers. The violence, these businessmen realize, is their only competitive edge. It is simple business logic: the more problems there are in Iraq, the harder it is for outsiders to get involved."

Thanks to short sighted republicans we've been told that this is a war of fundamentalist Islam against democracy, that the resistance is resisting because of a cultural gap, fueled by some republican pipe dream of an Allah and Mohammad that "hate freedom." What is pretty evident if this stuff is to be trusted is that the war is just as much about literal financial Globalization as anything else. What does Iraqi self-rule mean if there is no Iraqi self-ownership or domestic investment with dividends that pay out to its citizens?

Remember when Detroit auto workers trashed a Hyundai back in the 1980's because of fear of the Japanese takeover of the US economy? (It was during this period of heightened anti-Asian sentiment that Chinese American Vincent Chin was brutally beaten to death in Detroit by two white auto workers who called him "a jap" and blamed him for their unemployment and the recession of the American auto industry. His attackers never served any jail time." -

Well imagine that Japan, at the height of that hysteria, bombed Washington, DC because we had nuclear weapons, liberated us from Reagan and then handed us back an electoral process but kept control of a majority of the money making machinery in place in the country. Now, combine that with really, really hot weather, a small base of religious fundamentalists and the notion that Al Qaeda is the coolest club to pretend to be in and you've got a recipe for hell amongst the oil wells.

For people who haven't had it, noble ideals of Democracy might not be as important as the simple necessity of job security. Particularly when the symbol of that Democracy to many Iraqi's is GW Bush and Ariel Sharon.

Alright, Nevermind 

Self-reports of my own retirement have been greatly exaggerated. Sorry for the drama, folks, maybe all I needed was a little cheerleading. (And thank you, sincerely, for the cheerleading.) Back to business as usual, then.

Burnt Out 

I am kind of burnt out on blogging. I just haven't experienced the results, numbers, etc that I really set out to get in the beginning, which leaves me feeling like, more or less, I am just not very good at this. I'm feeling kind of fried and discouraged, frankly, and I am going to take a bit of a hiatus. Maybe it'll be a day and maybe a year, I don't know. If anyone is interested in guest blogging in my absence, they should let me know in the comments or by email.

Beat Bush in November, blah blah blah.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Jungian Analysis of GW Bush 

Dem Smartey Pantsin Psychololojeests is at gone interprit da prezdint agin. I don't know nuttin bout no psychololojists. I jizt knew dem terrists comin' and dem psycho voodoo brain shrinkers gone say do anytin' dat geev osma ben ladin help defeat the country. Yup!

Lack of parental availability typically leads to lack of parent-child attunement. And lack of parent-child attunement often makes for deficient empathic ability and a relative inability to identify with others. Frequently, such youngsters become rule busters or rule breakers as adults in the psychopathic sense. Clinicians who have studied attachment have noted the similarities between the behavioral manifestations of insecure attachment and disruptive behavior disorders. Antisocial behavior is seen, in part, as a covert communication to an unresponsive, emotionally distant parental figure. Perhaps this perspective illuminates, in part, the dynamic of "Shrub" Bush's unilateralism, his disavowal of treaties, and his seeming proclivity to violate international law with impunity. It is as if he thinks rules do not apply to him.

Monday, May 24, 2004

The Faith In Americans Index Hits All Time High 

Polls, we all know about polls, but they can be soothing when they look like this:

65 percent now say the country is on the wrong track -- matching the highest number ever recorded in CBS News Polls since the question was first asked in the mid-1980’s. Only 30 percent currently say things in this country are headed in the right direction. CBS News

Also: "Kerry gets 47 percent of the vote to Bush’s 41 percent and Nader nets 5 percent."

Bush Speaks! 

Bush held a press conference last night and, neverminding that it could have doubled for a Halliburton Shareholders meeting, man alive, he has totally got the best plan ever. Even Hyper Conservative NRO is thrilled by it:

"The question was "How are we going to win." His answer seemed to be "We already are." I'm not sure there are many takers for that argument."

Oh man, look at all these totally exciting ideas Bush has come up with since things started turning to shit:

"The rise of a free and self-governing Iraq would deny terrorists a base of operation, discredit their narrow ideology and give momentum to reformers across the region."

Whoa! Totally awesome!

"This would be a decisive blow to terrorism at the heart of its power, and a victory for the security of America and the civilized world."

Whoa, when was Iraq the center of terrorist power? I could have sworn that was Afghanistan- hey, whatever happened to Afghanistan?

"The terrorists only influence is violence and their only agenda is death."

Holy crap, what an enlightened, thoughtful insight into the occupations resistance! I had seriously spent this whole time thinking that the agenda included unhindered self rule and a withdrawal of American troops. But wow, turns out those guys are actually just a bunch of fucking animals.

I mean, seriously, whose bright idea was it to change the term for people fighting a resistance in an occupied country from a "resistance movement" to "terrorists"? Because it sure makes it easy for Bush's speechwriters.

Turning Abu Ghraib into Dollars: The Halliburton Way 

So, Bush wants to tear down Abu Ghraib. Imagine if the Nazi's tore down Dachau? I know it's not a similar comparison by numbers or magnitude of despair, but as far as sweeping away any reminders of power gone mad, it's all in the same boat. Also, don't forget, Abu Ghraib doesn't serve as a reminder exclusively of American atrocities, it's also the place where Saddam "Hitler" Hussein kept and tortured prisoners since the 60's.

The Nazis tried to get rid of Auschwitz: "The AUSCHWITZ camp was dismantled in November and December 1944 by a special dismantling commando of 2,000 girls who were to tear it down, stone by stone. However, the fast Russian advance prevented them from finishing the job."

But Dachau was an interesting one, because the prison was once used to contain Jews and was later used to contain Nazi's awaiting trial. We handed it to the Bavarian government, who tried to tear it down, but it was the survivors of the camp that wanted it to stay. Furthermore, Bush is tearing it down to "build a more modern prison." So imagine tearing down Dachau and building a new, more modern prison.

Isn't it likely that, you know, Iraqi's might want to decide just who, exactly, determines what happens to that place? If history has already shown us that survivors want their suffering remembered, why does Bush think they shouldn't have the right to determine that?

Oh, and who is going to build the redundant prison? Someone owes me ten bucks if it's not Halliburton.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Going Outside Is For Old People 

A British Study from today's Guardian Newspaper:

Children choose to stay indoors watching TV and playing computer games because they are terrified of the world outside, fresh research reveals.

In a high-profile launch this week, Education Secretary Charles Clarke will announce the findings which disclose that young children carry a daily expectation of being kidnapped by a stranger, sexually abused by a paedophile or becoming a victim of terrorism.

'We are not just failing to give children the opportunities to explore the real world,' said Di McNeish, director of policy and research at Barnardo's, which carried out the study with the Green Alliance, 'but are actively dissuading them by making them over-anxious about their external environment.

This might not just be for kids. I have a feeling that something similar is happening to America, and always has been, since the 1980's "drug panics" to today's terror alerts:

Terrorism featured as a significant fear for children, especially those in urban environments who seemed unable to differentiate between media coverage of terrorist attacks and reality.

'Children find it very hard to separate out what is really dangerous to them: they see issues talked about on TV and assume the dangers of the wider world are right outside their front door,' McNeish said.

But isn't that the Bush campaign theme when it comes to terrorism? "What you see on TV is right outside your front door" ?

Day Two at the Maine State Democratic Convention 

Part One: Fall In Love, Then Fall In Line

So I had to wait in line for about two hours waiting to be verified against a list of people who weren't in another line by 9AM. The list got there at 11AM and then they counted off names and sent me over to wait in another line where they were waiting to verify the name against another updated list. At that point they decided that I could be upgraded from an alternate delegate to an official Delegate for Howard Dean for my town in my county. It also meant I could finally go "on the floor."

On the floor, the people were on their feet, the room literally shaking with applause. Dennis Kucinich was wrapping up a speech with pure hellfire and brimstone liberal passion. One of his crew had a bass drum he would slam on whenever the crowd was cheering, which, I have to say, had an amazingly visceral effect, combined with the dim lights and giant projections of Kucinich. It was what a rally is supposed to be.

The Kucinich people were trying to sway delegates for other candidates to come over to them. By the end of the night, they succeeded in gaining an additional delegate, putting his total count at 2, the same as Dean and half of that for Kerry. The additional delegate was siphoned from Dean, who was supposed to get three.

The crowd was really thrilled and reeling, and then the Dean delegates- myself included- took the floor. The whole bunch of us were standing in front of the podium and a chant of "We Want Dean!" broke out, and it was true. We did want Dean. It's a heartbreaking spectacle that we didn't have him. But the worst was yet to come.

Part Two: "Health Care... Mission Accomplished... leadership... blah blah blah..."

Immediately after our speaker, the Kerry people came up and started talking. What is bound to be a major issue for the Kerry campaign is not only the lack of excitement that John Kerry exudes and inspires in people, but also the lack of excitement evident in everyone he surrounds himself with, including his surrogates.

The Kerry people didn't say anything really inspiring, although a video projection of John Kerry's biography was really well done. The speakers, however- and this was true for the entire duration of the convention, really- seemed really pleased with themselves for saying someone's name with the addendum, "...we're gonna send them back where they came from in November".

Neil Hamburger has this routine called "ladies and gentlemen" where he gets on stage and the whole act is him saying, like, "So, ladies- what is it with these guys and football, huh, ladies? And guys- what about these women with their "shopping"- are you with me, guys? But ladies, what is it with guys and beer...are you with me, ladies?"

Well that's Kerry's democratic surrogates in a nutshell:

"So Bush has this guy named John Ashcroft- and we're gonna send him back where he belongs in November! (wild applause) And how about this Rumsfeld? (boos from audience). Yeah, that's right. We're gonna send him back to where he belongs in November! (wild applause) And how about Dick Cheney, huh, democrats?"

No one even stood up after the Kerry delegation spoke, and no one started the spontaneous "mass cheer" except for one woman who was screaming "Kerry! Kerry! Kerry- come on people, stand up, what's wrong with you people?" right into my ear. She had a voice that could turn a glassware department at walmart into a national tragedy.

Part Three: The Pragmatism Index

Which brings me to the pragmatism index. The theory goes: The level of applause a candidate earns is inversely proportional to the number of voters he has. Which is also a sad indication that Democrats haven't really got the spine to vote for anyone they like. I genuinely liked Dean more than Kucinich- as I have mentioned before, it was the irony factor more than anything- but it is clear that the majority of Democrats actually want Dennis Kucinich to run for President.

I talked to my grandfather when I got home, and he told me he was voting for Ralph Nader, and that I ought to do the same. My grandfather is a savvy guy, he ran for public office back in the 60's, keeps up to date on the news and throws his newspaper at the TV as much as any politically disgruntled old guy ought to. But I was really surprised by this one.

"You people have got to realize that the Democratic party is a bunch of wimps who have had a majority in the state or the senate for the last forty years and have done nothing."

"But Bush- Bush has to go, don't you think?"

"Yeah, I hate that son of a bitch, but it doesn't matter. He's going to get reelected anyway. So what people ought to be doing is trying to build up a third party so that when we get through him, we can have someone besides these shitheads. A vote for Nader isn't a vote for Bush and it's not a vote for an ideal, a vote for Nader is a vote for 'none of the above'."

"But Bush..."

"But Bush, is that all you can say? Let me tell you something, what this country needs more than anything is a good old fashioned depression."

"But, Bush..."

"You have Brokaw calling me the greatest generation, but we weren't anything but a bunch of shitheads who couldn't get jobs. Then there were jobs, then there was social security, and then we all had jobs and social security- What else have they done since then?"

It was telling that, at the end of two days surrounded by Democratic Activists and Democratic Leadership, the only thing I could do to defend John Kerry, and the party in general, was say, "But, Bush..."

Part Four: "This is just like Florida all over again!"

In the actual caucus, the same guy that kept telling me I couldn't be on the floor with my alternate credentials was in charge of organizing our hotel room full of delegates into a caucus. He handed out a piece of paper, telling people that it was their support intent form, but not the actual ballot. You write in the name of the candidate you are here to represent, he said, and then we will hand them in for the ballots. Five minutes after they were handed out, he tells us not to write on them.

Then they collect the ballots. "Very well," he says. "Now, we will send these in to be totaled up with the state totals so we can decide how many delegates each candidate gets."

At this, everyone in the room is a little concerned, particularly the people who were elected to represent "undecideds" in their local caucus, and the Kucinich people, who have been doing active recruitment to sway delegates from other candidates.

"No, there is not another ballot," says the old guy, "Who you wrote on that piece of paper is who you voted for, and that determines how many delegates you get to pick for your candidate."

People told him that he didn't explain it very well, that they thought they were just filling out identification cards but not ballots.

"It was not a ballot." He says. The ballot, he explains, has the name of the delegates you can vote for to go to the convention who will then vote for the presidential candidate. What we wrote out was just an identification card saying that we supported a presidential candidate, which then went to be counted up at the state office in the hotel to determine how many delegates each candidate got.

In other words, it was a ballot.

One woman stood up to declare that she felt like her right to vote was taken away. People were starting to stand up and holler at the old guy, who just kept saying "Look, I'm not going to argue over whether or not I called it a ballot. I said it was a ballot and if you want to argue, well, we have a difference of opinion but there's nothing we can do about it now. I can't change the rules now."

But you did change the rules, holler back the angry mob.

"No I didn't. You can't change the rules."

This goes on for two hours. In the end, nothing gets changed.

Part Five: Theories of Efficiency

The caucusing in the hotel rooms was supposed to start at 12, but the speeches ended at 12 and then the line to get my bagged lunch was 45 minutes long. No one explained whether the caucusing would be halted, and there was no one to ask. The committee chairpeople all traveled in a VIP bus to and from the convention site to the caucus site, which was a three minute walk down the street.

In the caucus room, we all filled in our "Not Ballots" and waited for four hours doing precisely nothing. The guy next to me- some sort of political consultant for non profits- was screaming over the massive waste of time this was, not because we had to be in the room- which is sort of a prerequisite of the convention process- but because the Democratic Committee didn't see fit to use the opportunity to hold workshops, explain key issues, train people for phone banking or voter registration. He envisioned a caucus with an infinite array of workshops that would not only keep the crowd busy but also strengthen the Democratic party.

What ended up happening at the end of two days of Democrat Hair-raising was a conversation with my grandfather that made me think that maybe I should be voting for Ralph Nader.

Part Six: A Second Hand, Wholly Unsubstantiated Kerry Anecdote

A woman I sat next to at the caucus was also a Dean supporter. She told me she originally really liked Kerry, but then something happened: She met him.

It was right after the primary debates at the University of New Hampshire. She was at a leadership training seminar with her boss, who was a Vietnam Vet, and who had a mutual friend with Kerry from the war days. So he walked up to him with her, and mentioned the friends name, and that they served together. They chatted a bit, Kerry mostly mumbling, she said, but figured maybe Kerry didn't really like to talk about the war- fine.

"You did a really good job at the debate yesterday, Mr. Kerry," she says to him.

"Mwhum mwhum mwhum mwhum not really, no, mwhum mhwum mhwum." (That's how I have transcribed the Kerry noise: mwhum- mwhum- mwhum- mwhum).

She said he was looking at the floor and that she literally had to duck down and look back up at him and reassure him. "No, no, really, I think (such and such a thing) you said was really right on..."

"Mwhum mwhum mwhum mwhum..."

So they walk away, and she looks over and they are all pushing a plate of melon around, all mopey looking, all three- Kerry and his two flanks- on cell phones. Kerry calls out to her boss and says, "Hey, what was our friends name again?" She tells him how to remember their names- they're all Irish names, she says, it should be easy to remember.

"Oh, well, mwhum whum, not really Irish mwhum mwhum mwhum..."

At that point, her boss, who was teaching a leadership event, tells her, "See that? That is exactly what I would do if this was a role play about what not to do as a leader."

But, Bush...

Part Seven: Epilogue

The great collective illusions, anemic from spilling so much blood, have since given way to the thousands of pre-packaged ideologies sold by consumer society like so many brain scrambling machines. Will it need as much blood shed to show that a hundred pinpricks kill as surely as a couple of blows with a club? - Raoul Vaneigem, "The Revolution of Everyday Life"

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Projection of John Kerry, Maine Democratic Convention

Friday, May 21, 2004

Why We Took Pictures: Susan Sontag on Abu Ghraib 

Susan Sontag on torture and pornography:

"To have the American effort in Iraq summed up by these images must seem, to those who saw some justification in a war that did overthrow one of the monster tyrants of modern times, ''unfair.'' A war, an occupation, is inevitably a huge tapestry of actions. What makes some actions representative and others not? The issue is not whether the torture was done by individuals (i.e., ''not by everybody'') -- but whether it was systematic. Authorized. Condoned. All acts are done by individuals. The issue is not whether a majority or a minority of Americans performs such acts but whether the nature of the policies prosecuted by this administration and the hierarchies deployed to carry them out makes such acts likely.

She is smart about the meaning of images against the meaning of simply the action- "There would be something missing if, after stacking the naked men, you couldn't take a picture of them", but her analysis of America's culture of brutality is unfortunately very pre-9/11: she blames video games and action movies, and not, what I believe, the overrall culture of victimization spawned by 9/11 and capitalized on by President Bush, that is giving America its sense of entitlement to that brutality. Bush is always speaking in coded terms about America the Victim, evoking 9/11 as a justification of everything, not because we need "protection" so much as to remind us that we "deserve" to be what Bush wants us to be. Nevermind that 9/11 can never, really, be "resolved".

Furthermore, since 9/11 was distributed by images, it makes perfect sense that those seeking retribution- even against the wrong people- would also seek it not just through actions but through images of those actions. It doesn't matter who they are, American power "needed" to "prove" its power over someone again, in order to reclaim what it lost in the "embarrassment" of 9/11. The photographs were a part of the torture. As she puts it, "What is illustrated by these photographs is as much the culture of shamelessness as the reigning admiration for unapologetic brutality."

Maine State Democratic Convention 

Part One: Who Am I, Why Am I Here?

First off, I didn't even physically attend my local caucus, I absentee balloted. But somehow or other I was "elected" to serve as a delegate by some anonymous figures in my town. I had never been to a convention since a model UN (and Model Congress) activity day in High School, and I figured this would be interesting. But I had no idea what to do, how to do it, or even who to talk to about what to do and how to do it. But I did have mapquest.

So I pulled into the Cumberland Civic Center after about a 50 minute drive north. Going inside, the line was already pretty long for registration. There were a few tables set up with Anti-Bush Merchandise (I bought a crossed out "W" tee shirt and a "Democrats Are Sexy" tee shirt). There was a Kucinich table, a table for Congressmen Tom Allen, a Veterans for Peace table and another table to free some prisoner, but when I told them I wasn't familiar with it they didn't really elaborate. But, that was it.

Part Two: Fifty Percent Plus One

After getting my credentials, I headed over to an "activist workshop" called "Campaigning 101". The workshop was designed to teach people how to run a campaign. How to run a campaign, as a manager, not a candidate. It also described each of the positions available to anyone who wanted to volunteer to work for a local campaign. The logic was that if you could convince a voter to come out and vote for a dinky state rep or town clerk, the Democrat in question was almost certain to also vote for John Kerry. Local politics as the fire under the ass of national politics, instead of the other way around.

The workshop was really enlightening as far as the mechanics of a campaign. One of the most interesting revelations was in the mechanics of fundraising. The system is set up so that a "clean money" candidate can get cash for the race. Alternatively, the traditional method is to ask your friends and family for the money, or to supplement your money. As I sat there pondering running a campaign, it dawned on me that I was simply too poor to run for office. I also didn't have wealthy friends or wealthy family. And it dawned on me then, on a level I never really understood as clearly, just how much influence money has in politics. I know that this is a given- that money corrupts policy is a pretty rigid battle cry of every progressive activist- but for once it hit me from the inside out, instead of simply being a mantra with no real impact. If someone from a poor neighborhood is encouraged with full support of that neighborhood to run- even for small seats, like local or state- they would not be able to fund the race, no matter how many of them there were. And, under current election laws, even with "clean money", an opponent who is friends with the five wealthy slumlords can have a massive advantage over the grassroots politician. This isn't even something addressed at the workshop, though obviously Democrats have worked on it. It was really just absolutely staggering.

The other interesting thing that I always seemed to know but never really knew is the way the flow of campaign money ensures the alienation of the already alienated voter. The simple fact is- and this is really remarkable- if you don't vote, not only do you not vote, but you also don't get paid attention to in any race or campaign whatsoever. Campaigns look at those who are registered to vote to trim down the number of people (and amount of money) they have to spend. Following this cut, they then look at people who actually voted. These are the people who get phone calls, who get surveyed, who get the political literature and who get encouraged to come out. It's simply a matter of economics. And so when I, as a Nader supporter, voted Green in 2000 as a way to get Democrats to pay attention to me- I failed completely. All I did was tell the Democrats that I wasn't interested, and they went after Joe Moderate who sincerely can't decide if he is a republican or a democrat. (I never understood these people, and I especially do not understand them now.) But if you are considering voting Green or for Nader as a means of teaching Democrats a lesson, and that they have to come after your vote, you're barking up the wrong tree. Democrats don't have the money to go after your vote, they don't have the time or the resources, unless they think there is a chance to get you in their march to the magic number of 50% of voters- plus one.

Part Three: I Need To Get Off The Floor

"I was told to talk to you," I say, "Because I am kind of in the dark about what it is I am doing here." The man, an older man in a palm tree sweater, touches my neck placard.
"Well first off, you need to get off the floor with that badge."
"Oh," I say. "I didn't know."
"Yeah. You need to get off the floor." With this, he touches my arm, and starts turning me around toward the stadium seats.
"How will I know if they upgrade my position from an alternate delegate to an official delegate?" I ask.
"See me tomorrow morning. But get off the floor."

Meanwhile, everyone and their kids is on the fucking floor, except for me.

Part Four: The League of Ironic Voters

I'm the youngest person here besides the pages, who are, by Democratic Party Policy, restricted to the ages of 12 to 18. There's about 5 kids that look my age, all of them with Kucinich, but by far the majority of people- including Kucinich people- are older. In fact, the Kucinich people seem to have the oldest delegates. All of them are wearing dark blue Kucinich shirts that highlight the darkness of a tan that must have been cultivated since the end of the second great war. It makes sense that Kucinich supporters are environmentalists, since they all have skin that looks like damaged leather. And the hats! I don't know what it is with Kucinich supporters and hats, but they have all types: Old men in fishing hats, old women in sun bonnets, baseball hats, berets, you name it, a Kucinich supporter somewhere is wearing it.

Which makes me think a minute about something I realized when I went to see Kucinich speak at the Catholic Voters forum back in January. The man has no irony, and neither do his supporters. In fact, judging the floor that everyone is on but me, the majority of them are good people, my people, even, except without a single shred of irony or self consciousness regarding their own fashion, yes, but also about their own activism. Is it possible for Irony and Activism to co exist, and if so, why does it seem that they are always mutually exclusive? Do you have to be a certain kind of person to believe so strongly in the matters of world peace and clean air? A woman handed me a petition to sign regarding bringing up specific Kucinich platforms at the National Convention, and I checked off all of them, except for the "Department of Peace" initiative. Because there's not a chance in fucking hell that even a convention full of democratic activists would go for that for a single second.

Is that what keeps the "youth of America" away from activism? That it has so much to do with blind idealism that irony- even pragmatism- renders it too far gone for us? I thought about how to do it, how to create an Ironic Democratic Convention. It would have its share of indie tee shirts and "John Kerry: The Nadernator" shirts (to get it, picture John Kerry with a glowing red eye behind his shades). All of us would sit around drinking Moxie and slag on Kerry for that lame Tonight Show motorcycle stunt, groan a while and then vote for him anyway. The party platform would probably be more realistic- baby steps, sure, but obtainable. Is that a better kind of government? A detached party that is a little ashamed of being energetic about a cause, but does it anyway?

"Hi, I know this is totally lame, but I'm calling on behalf of the Kerry campaign I mean, I know politics can be totally stupid, but whatever, you know? Somebody's gotta do it, and it has to get paid for somehow- so like, do you think you're gonna vote for the guy?"

I don't know, exactly, what makes politics so lame to the kids, but I have a feeling its because the entire organizational structure of activist movements isn't up to par. When you look at the Dean campaign, the youth empowerment campaign, it had its share of dorky moments that made me cringe, not the least of which was the Dean Scream. Also figure in the pumpkin parade in Burlington. But there was also a sort of weirdness to Dean's campaign that made it self-reflexive: The "Howards for Howard in Howard" fundraiser, where Dean got a bunch of supporters named "Howard" together in a town called "Howard"- was such a ridiculous notion that you know someone in the campaign just realized that all themed fundraising was ridiculous, so why not go all the way with just how ridiculous these things could be?

Part Five: Someone Tells Me What The Hell We're Doing

The Star Spangled Banner is performed as we look at the flag. There's a woman doing the lyrics in sign language, which is really an interesting site to see. It's like interpretive dance, and it makes the whole thing seem a little more real, maybe because it's a bit of a jolt from how I usually hear the words, half mumbled and recited without any real thought to their meaning. The sign language woman makes me think about the words because I'm looking at them, and while it is one thing to think about what the flag means and what war means, I get lost in thought trying to figure out what the sign language translation is for the word "spangled." I can't imagine you can make that word with your hands, or what they would choose to signify it. In fact, the more I thought about it, the harder it was for me to understand what "spangled" even means. (FYI: A small, often circular piece of sparkling metal or plastic sewn especially on garments for decoration.)

There are two prayers- one led by a minister in a thankfully well thought out, secular prayer, and another, a moment of silence for the soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Maine Democratic Chairperson is a very engaging woman with an untraceable New England accent, and she speaks like a real human being. All the speakers do, in fact. She also announces Al Franken, who isn't there in person but speaks through a recorded projection (very 1990's) about Maine and about Democrats. My favorite line of his, which I hadn't heard before, concerned the net job loss that Bush had under his term. In fact, he said, if you combine Bush I and Bush II's record for job creation, there was a net loss of jobs still. So, if Bush One and Bush Two policies were enacted since America's inception, not a single American would be employed today.

Finally, however, someone tells me what I am doing there. But all of it happens tomorrow.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Thanks to the DCCC 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has blogrolled me off of their Blog, The Stakeholder. So I'm giving them some immediate dividends: go check them out.

Also, since I'm going to be at the Maine Democratic Convention this weekend, you should check out some other blogs that have been brought to my attention lately:

Seeing The Forest, who I meant to blogroll a long time ago, and so-far-pretty-good-new-comer, Kalends of April, who seems to have written my Kerry/Scalia post even before I did.

I'll have daily updates on the convention. I have no idea what I am doing there, and I have no idea what I am supposed to be doing there, but I know it is going to be confusing as hell and that as a result of my incompetence something terrible will happen, like Lyndon LaRouche ending up elected president.

Anyone ever been to a convention that might have some advice for me?

Rhea County Gay Day 

Gay Day in Rhea County, Tennessee, where it was recently proposed that Homosexuals be banned. The article points out that most citizens aren't all that crazy about the measure, but the ones who are, well, they're something else entirely.

June Griffin, a zealous fundamentalist Christian who lives in Rhea County, causes them concern. She’s been a vocal antagonist to many leftist protest groups. Her group, Citizen-Soldiers for the Atomic Bomb, sent a press release out about the anti-nuclear group Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, that read "we pray for their untimely deaths."

It's actually a really interesting article that kind of encapsulates the American "Homosexual Crisis" of 2004. Most people don't care, some people do but not that intensely, and a very small fraction care with any intensity. Worth reading.

Story To Watch 

There was a raid at Ahmad Chalabi's home and office today, by the Iraqi Police. Chalabi was being groomed to receive the reigns of Iraq's sovereignty, but all bets seem to be off. Really suddenly.

"When America treats its friends this way, then they are in big trouble," he said. "My relationship with the Coalition Provisional Authority now is nonexistent."

It's a big shift: "Mr. Chalabi's group has received at least $27 million in United States financing in the past four years, an Iraqi National Congress official said this week. That includes $335,000 a month as part of a classified program through the Defense Intelligence Agency, since the summer of 2002, to help gather intelligence in Iraq."

I was no fan of Chalabi- whose lies about Iraq helped justify Bush's invasion, so this comes as a welcome move, albeit a very suspicious one.

"Let America Be America Again" 

It's the new Kerry Campaign slogan, via Change for America. I like it. It's from a Langston Hughes poem. Here's the first half or so:

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

Note to Kerry: Shut Up, Sometimes. Please. 

"I will not appoint somebody with a 5-4 court who's about to undo Roe v. Wade. I've said that before. But that doesn't mean that if that's not the balance of the court I wouldn't be prepared ultimately to appoint somebody to some court who has a different point of view. I've already voted for people like that. I voted for Judge Scalia." - AP

I don't really want to vote for a guy who voted for Scalia "turn off your tape recorders when I am speaking / Appearance of Impropriety is less important than a good duck hunt / No Rights for Women" Scalia. (Did I miss anything?) But furthermore, John, what the hell are you supposed to be getting, politically, from the above position? You are pro-choice, own it. Don't go around with your "I'll put in an anti-abortion Justice- but only when it doesn't matter" crap. No pro-lifer cares about that position, and pro-choicers don't want anyone on the SCOTUS that is pro-life because we don't want anyone who thinks religious belief is a solid basis for running a goddamn Secular Republic.

But anyway, great news: Kerry retracted the statement. "Some court" meant "lower courts". Which is even worse, really, a) because it makes no sense in context and b) because one judge has more power in a lower court. I'm sure John Kerry will do an interview soon and start his explanation with a testy expression and the word, "Look..."

I hate when he does that.

GAO: Bush Broke the Law 

After Bushco passed the medicare law, they did something a little funny: They wrote, filmed, and distributed "news stories" about the Bill to local TV news outlets around the country. The spots were made to look like real news reports, and none of the stations announced them to be what they were: fake news reports of el preznit, for el preznit and by el preznit.

In other words- in the words of the General Accounting Office, actually- it was "covert propaganda": The 16-page legal opinion says that HHS's "video news releases" violated a statute that forbids the use of federal money for propaganda, as well as the Antideficiency Act, which covers the unauthorized use of federal funds. In their defense, HHS Spokesman Bill Pierce said: "Pierce said video news releases "are everywhere" in corporate public relations and in the public affairs work of federal agencies."

That might be a little bit of a problem. On the one hand, it's interesting to note that corporations engage in an activity that the GAO called "propaganda". On the other hand, it's scary to think that Bushco really can't tell the difference between running the American Government and running a Corporation: especially when he has a tendency to run both right into the ground.

Ask Rumsfeld 

"Hours after telling graduates at the Coast Guard Academy that 'the president of the United States has made a commitment' in Iraq and 'that commitment will be kept,' Vice President Dick Cheney, now settled back into the cocoon of Air Force Two, was asked how the war was going.

" 'You ought to ask Rumsfeld,' he said. 'I don't do military briefings.'

"And that was that. His press secretary quickly cut off the questioning. The answer was about as far as Cheney goes -- actually, it was further than he usually goes -- in talking about the increasingly troubled war effort, an effort he championed, planned and continues to insist is a just cause."

-Hartford Courant

Doesn't sound too confident to me.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

First Dennis Miller, and Now This... 

See if you can guess which beloved American Comedian-Icon made the following jokes:

"Ladies and gentlemen, the lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal," he declared. "These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids -- $500 sneakers for what? And won't spend $200 for 'Hooked on Phonics.'"

"They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English," he exclaimed. "I can't even talk the way these people talk: 'Why you ain't,' 'Where you is'... And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk... Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads... You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth!"

And then, regarding the American Prison Population, "These are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake and then we run out and we are outraged, [saying] 'The cops shouldn't have shot him.' What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?"

Seriously, try to guess. Click Here or check the comments for the answer. Hint: It's not Jerry Seinfeld.

That Wacky George With The Jokes and the Wars... 


No Child Left Behind, Indeed 

The Village Voice today details the relationship between "Apostolic Christians" who are craving the end of days, and Our Faithful President:

"Everything that you're discussing is information you're not supposed to have," barked Pentecostal minister Robert G. Upton when asked about the off-the-record briefing his delegation received on March 25. Details of that meeting appear in a confidential memo signed by Upton and obtained by the Voice.

The e-mailed meeting summary reveals NSC Near East and North African Affairs director Elliott Abrams sitting down with the Apostolic Congress and massaging their theological concerns. Claiming to be "the Christian Voice in the Nation's Capital," the members vociferously oppose the idea of a Palestinian state. They fear an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza might enable just that, and they object on the grounds that all of Old Testament Israel belongs to the Jews. Until Israel is intact and David's temple rebuilt, they believe, Christ won't come back to earth.

Abrams attempted to assuage their concerns by stating that "the Gaza Strip had no significant Biblical influence such as Joseph's tomb or Rachel's tomb and therefore is a piece of land that can be sacrificed for the cause of peace."

Meanwhile, Newsweek has an article about the ties between Bush and the author of the "Left Behind" series, another apocalyptic "Christian" nutjob.

For a great education in apocalyptic movements, check out the following episode of This American Life (you can stream it over the interweb).

$756 - $649 = $97 + $47 = $144. Bush Disagrees.  

A New York Times article today explores what I, and many others, have mentioned before: Bush has a tendency to drastically cut programs on the sly, then give minor boosts to funding the same programs and brags about it.

"Justice Department officials recently announced that they were awarding $47 million to scores of local law enforcement agencies for the hiring of police officers. Mr. Bush had just proposed cutting the budget for the program, known as Community Oriented Policing Services, by 87 percent, to $97 million next year, from $756 million."

Also included:

* "$11.7 million in grants to help 30 states plan and provide coverage for people without health insurance" in a program Bush has tried to kill every year for three years.

* "$11.6 million to the states so they could buy defibrillators to save the lives of heart attack victims. But Mr. Bush had proposed cutting the budget for such devices by 82 percent, to $2 million from $10.9 million."

* "$3.1 million in grants to improve health care in rural areas of Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico and New York. He did not mention that the administration was trying to cut the same rural health program by 72 percent, to $11.1 million next year, from $39.6 million."

* "$16 million to 11 universities to train blacks and Hispanic Americans as doctors, dentists and pharmacists. But at the same time, the administration was urging Congress to abolish the program, on the ground that "private and corporate entities" could pay for training."

The article does not mention what the Washington Post mentioned last week, however: Bush, while visiting a Timken Co plant in Ohio last year, touted his economic recovery, saying the "greatest strength of the American economy is found right here, right in this room, found in the pride and skill of the American work force." As Froomkin put it: "Last week, Timken announced that the folks right there in that room are getting fired."

Abu Ghraib 

ABC News talks to an Intel Officer, Sgt. Samuel Provance, who ran the Abu Ghraib computer network (we just assume that is where the photos were stored) says there is "definitely a cover up" of what went on and who knew. This is consistent with the CIA's lack of interest in exposing a top secret group that is allowed to operate independent of the Geneva Conventions, as described in the New Yorker story, which they have used to gain info from Afghan detainees.

"I would say many people are probably hiding and wishing to God that this storm passes without them having to be investigated [or] personally looked at."

The Denver Post has a story on five prisoner deaths that the Pentagon believes could be linked to the torture scandal, also adding, "Internal records obtained by The Post point to wider problems beyond the Abu Ghraib prison and demonstrate that some coercive tactics used at Abu Ghraib have shown up in interrogations elsewhere in the war effort. The documents also show more than twice as many allegations of detainee abuse - 75 - are being investigated by the military than previously known. Twenty-seven of the abuse cases involve deaths; at least eight are believed to be homicides."

Tuesday, May 18, 2004


Three Iraqi Citizens working for Reuters and NBC claim that they were among those abused by American soldiers. The Pentagon claims it never happened. Change For America sums it up:

"The logical conclusion of this line of thinking is that NBC and Reuters are inherently no more worthy of our trust than the U.S. military. Whose side of the story are we supposed to believe? How will we ever know, if we ourselves didn't witness it, in person?

A breakdown of basic trust in our major institutions cripples every piece of our lives, including our very sanity. Without trust in the simple actions of the state, or in the history that we've been taught, or in what we see on television or read in the papers, or in any political party claiming to represent our interests, or in those who profess the moral authority to interpret the will of God, one can easily be led to the conclusion that nothing is real, except what is perceived by an individual's own eyes. And that, simply put, is crazy talk."

Maybe Joe Trippi's blog will render me useless. It's not just this. It's the torture, it's the war, it's the corruption of corporate America, of Religious Doctrine- the post sums it up really well.

Do you remember that game, "Trust"? This is a juvenile comparison probably, but I can't help but think of it. You climb up on a ledge and you fall backwards and trust the person to catch you. In this case, there's no one to catch us but ourselves- the "citizenry". What's happened is not a matter of the Government failing to catch us in free fall. It's that the Government is climbing higher than we can handle, and the freefall is from such a great height and such distance that even if we try to catch it, we're going to crumble. We need to start over.


Cat and Girl's new comic this week just drives home the question I always have about Cat and Girl: How the hell does anyone besides me get these jokes?

Get Your War On has been updated as well.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Catching Up on Abu Ghraib 

Newsweek, like the New Yorker, does a pretty horrible job of explaining its own story, aided by a labyrinth layout for the pages on its website. Maybe the print edition does better. But because I am your dedicated servant, here's what you need to know about Abu Ghraib, so far.

By Jan. 25, 2002, according to a memo obtained by NEWSWEEK, it was clear that Bush had already decided that the Geneva Conventions did not apply at all, either to the Taliban or Al Qaeda. In the memo, which was written to Bush by Gonzales, the White House legal counsel told the president that Powell had "requested that you reconsider that decision." Gonzales then laid out startlingly broad arguments that anticipated any objections to the conduct of U.S. soldiers or CIA interrogators in the future. "As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war," Gonzales wrote to Bush. "The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians." Gonzales concluded in stark terms: "In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

If you read the memo, it basically says, yeah, we can skirt the Geneva Convention's Protocol for handling POW's because this is a unique war without "state actors" or the like. Terrorism requires a new approach to war and to intelligence. America, at the time, rallied around the idea of fighting terrorists without these pesky rules of engagement. The problem started when we went into a war against a country that didn't have any link to terrorists, in order to fight terrorism. The problem took on more dimensions when we began lumping in Iraq prisoners with terrorists anyway.

But back when we were looking at Al Qaeda and the Taliban, Bush was getting memos advising him, in pretty explicit language, on how he himself could avoid the death penalty for war crimes if the administration was ever brought to trial for committing them.

In the memo, the White House lawyer focused on a little known 1996 law passed by Congress, known as the War Crimes Act, that banned any Americans from committing war crimes—defined in part as "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions. Noting that the law applies to "U.S. officials" and that punishments for violators "include the death penalty," Gonzales told Bush that "it was difficult to predict with confidence" how Justice Department prosecutors might apply the law in the future. This was especially the case given that some of the language in the Geneva Conventions—such as that outlawing "outrages upon personal dignity" and "inhuman treatment" of prisoners—was "undefined."

One key advantage of declaring that Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters did not have Geneva Convention protections is that it "substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act," Gonzales wrote.

Of course, Bush never called the War in Iraq POW's "exempt" from the Geneva Convention. But when the Iraq Insurgency started picking up, they brought in Major General Geoffrey Miller from Gitmo- a guy who was, since 2001, "interrogating" prisoners with no regard for international law. For the rest of the story, we turn to a horribly written and poorly constructed article which appeared in the New Yorker:

"Miller’s concept, as it emerged in recent Senate hearings, was to "Gitmoize" the prison system in Iraq—to make it more focused on interrogation. He also briefed military commanders in Iraq on the interrogation methods used in Cuba—methods that could, with special approval, include sleep deprivation, exposure to extremes of cold and heat, and placing prisoners in "stress positions" for agonizing lengths of time."

Now, Miller is just one piece. The other piece comes from Rumsfeld's decision to bring in a secret group of military elites that were organized to take advantage of the Geneva waiver in Afghanistan, "a highly secret program that was given blanket advance approval to kill or capture and, if possible, interrogate "high value" targets in the Bush Administration’s war on terror." President Bush was informed, according to an unnamed official. (For the record, I'll agree that "unnamed officials" shouldn't always be trusted). This included people from many departments, mixing the CIA and the Military.

When the elites took over, that's when all hell broke loose, in as literal a fashion as we can get. But there's a third contribution.

Stephen Cambone, Under Secretary of Defense since 2003, was the guy Rumsfeld put in charge- and almost complete charge- of the whole operation. One of Cambone's assistants is our good buddy, Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin- was in charge of making sure that the right tools got to the right people, so to speak. It wasn't so much an issue of Geneva Conventions, or interrogations, for Boykin. If you recall, he's the guy who believes that Saddam and Bin Laden aren't the enemy- Satan is. And that he knew he would win a battle against Muslims in Somalia because "I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol." (And also believes that Bush is President because "God put him there for a time such as this.") So, you know that part of the reason they are deflecting attention from "higher ups" is the political fallout that would come from Bush refusing to dismiss Boykin after people called for his resignation.

The plan ended up coming straight out of the KGB-Czechoslovakia handbook: The government consultant said that there may have been a serious goal, in the beginning, behind the sexual humiliation and the posed photographs. It was thought that some prisoners would do anything—including spying on their associates—to avoid dissemination of the shameful photos to family and friends.

So, eventually, the CIA started to get nervous with the Iraq program. Knowing that the mandate of what they did in Afghanistan was supposed to be limited to "High Value" targets related to the war on terror ("ticking bomb" scenarios) and seeing it now being used in a prison where almost 70% of the people were merely suspects- they got cold feet. If the lid blew, not only would Abu Ghraib be a nightmare scenario, but it would also jeopardize the Geneva waiver that had, in their opinion, been of tremendous value to them when used with actual terrorists. JAG's started bringing the complaints up in American courts. And now, because the operation is ostensibly "secret", the only people that can be prosecuted are the bottom rung.

Okay. Any questions?

Gay Marriages: Cambridge City Hall 

Everyone agrees: Best Guide Dog Safety Awareness Week ever. The one thing that surprised me most about Cambridge City Hall today- where the first ever American Gay Marriages were being performed- was that there weren't any protesters. I really, really wanted a picture of my middle finger sticking out in front of a bunch of marriage nazis, but no such luck. The closest I could get was Jay "Kill All The Muslims" (Yes he really said it) Severin who argued that even though he was a Libertarian, the law should intervene in the case of gay marriage because it's a left wing Marxist plot to destroy American Institutions. Count me in on that plot, comrade. The only person on the street who seemed to agree was a homeless woman with a constant stream of curse words that were only half decipherable. Other local stations were celebrating it, with the local Rock Station giving away tickets to their big River Rave concert to everyone who "came out" on the air- with the DJ giving legitimate props to the people who did. Rumor had it that 15 people showed up with anti-marriage signs and were simply ignored, so they left. When I arrived, there was nothing but media, people sitting on the grass applauding when people came out, volunteers from GLAD, and more media.

GLAD really went all out. The atmosphere was described, by the BBC, as "festive", and that was true, so long as you don't associate "festive" with "crowded". GLAD provided Cake, sparkling grape juice and Roses. The most important thing I got out of being there, I think, is how little politics had to do with it. No one that I saw seemed like they were getting married as a political action. They did it because they were with people they wanted to marry, and could, and that was the whole point. No one talked about the politics of it. People sat around and talked about how exciting it all was, cars honked their horns in support, and no one mentioned that all of this was at the heart of a firestorm. In Colorado, conservatives were outraged. In Nebraska, conservatives were outraged. George Bush, in Kansas, spoke at length about the anniversary of Brown v. the Board of Education, where it was determined that Blacks could go to the same schools as Whites, which sparked the desegregation of American Life. Not aware of the irony, Bush, too, was outraged over Gay Marriages.

But none of those people were in Cambridge, and neither were any of those concerns- or at least, no one talked about them. No one was militant, no one chuckled over the destruction of the institution of marriage. No Heterosexual passerby were struck dead, nor did the sky turn black. It was as simple as this: some people kissed, some people got free cake, straight men like me went home alone and gay couples went home to over 1000 health benefits. In the end, I really have to wonder what all the fuss is about.

By the way, GLAD takes online donations.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Gay Marriage In 3...2...1.... 

Gay Marriages are being performed at 10:15PM tonight in Cambridge, Mass. At Midnight, the certificates will be handed out to gay couples.

More Good News:

Forty-One Percent of Registered Voters Want to See Bush Re-Elected, a New Low; Approval Rating On Iraq Slips to 35 Percent, Majority (51%) Now Supports Gay Marriage (28%) Or Civil Unions (23%); 43 Percent Oppose All Legal Recognition.

Could it be that I can have faith in America again?

On The Ground In Iraq 

Donna Mulhearn of Sydney, Australia was writing emails to a mailing list while traveling through Iraq, starting as a human shield and also working on opening an art school for children. She is headed home now, but you can read through the archives: Part 1 and Most Recent, Part 2 (this one is supported by ads on yahoo- which can be really annoying if you go too far back). One I like in particular is You Know You're In Baghdad When..." which helps fill in some idea of Iraqi Culture, as opposed to the force-fed American media ideal of Iraqi culture (anti Americanism, Fundamentalism, and Al Qaeda). It's small details that I find the most interesting: Tea and Coffee are served with ridiculous amounts of sugar, for example. Highly Recommended.

Sunday Blog Outsourcing 

For sheer thrill value, there's little out there this week that can beat Matt Stoller's look at the 2000 Campaign Party Platforms of the two major parties. Included in the Republican Platform are gems such as, "The arrogance, inconsistency, and unreliability of the administration’s diplomacy have undermined American alliances, alienated friends, and emboldened our adversaries." Yeah, they're talkin' bout Clinton. So much more irony where that came from, too- you'll probably feel dirty. If that doesn't, and feeling dirty with irony is something you're craving, then Mister Pants has a second fix.

So, since I believe in connecting betwixt the interweb, here's a new blog I've noticed: Mouse Words, which isn't a "feminist blog" per se but comes from a feminist perspective. (Brought to my attention by way of Echidne, who I'm pretty sure hates my blog because I never get linked in her round ups. The Liberal Coalition, in general, actually, never, ever links to me in any of their round ups, which is entirely disconcerting because I write about 7000 posts a day, all of which are completely quotable, yeah I'm talking to you!) Also relatively new: Invisible Library's contractor buddy, Christian, in Iraq has got a blog now. Again, with all the bashing of contractors to be done around here, it's nice to see a guy work in a pretty transparent, open way.

Blogamy never gets enough attention from my Sunday Blog Outsourcing, and the whole blog is consistently good.

Rivka has a post, chock full of outside links, on Saturday's revelation (not covered here, thanks to the day job) that Rumsfeld authorized the "interrogation" techniques employed at Abu Ghraib.

NTodd with some particularly timely George Orwell.

Edwardpig has some on the ground blogging from a voter registration drive he worked on. If you're thinking of doing something like that, but haven't, check it out. It's amazing the stories you'll get out of it, even if you don't get any voters.

Upyernoz with some lifestyle blogging and a rebuke of William Safire's recent NYT editorial.

Fundies Losing Credibility 

Annoying Radical Fundamentalist Christians who want certain laws for "a special class" of individuals (homosexuals, and marriage) are upset that no one gives a shit anymore.

The Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, said: "I don't see any traction. The calls aren't coming in and I am not sure why."

I have a theory, Rev. Louis P. Sheldon: We're looking at hundreds of deaths in the middle east, our troops raping and torturing inmates in a war that was supposed to win us friends in the Middle East, the brutal beheading of an American Citizen in return for it, a net job loss in this president's incumbency, soaring gas prices, a dilapidated school system, a massive federal deficit, Osama Bin Laden is running loose, and did I mention, we're fighting two fucking wars. It seems like maybe- just maybe, Rev. Louis P. Sheldon- people have got bigger fucking problems than two guys kissing, legally.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

I Heed the Floor 

To Mr. Kurt Vonnegut.

All Conspiracy Theories Are Acts of Denial: Beaudrillard Cultist Rant #3492 

Al Jazeera rounds up the conspiracy theories concerning Nick Berg's death, most apparently backed up by actual facts. The sad truth is, in any traumatic event, the conspiracy theory emerges as a way to take control away from "evil." Baudrillard said it about the 9/11 conspiracies that the CIA orchestrated the attacks: It's a way to take power away from those who can do us harm, and pretend we are doing it to ourselves. Abu Ghraib, we have trouble with. "We" did it, but we can safely distance ourselves from the horror because "we" did it to others.

Nick Berg is all that more horrifying because we didn't do it to ourselves. It was done to us, by individuals who are not supposed to be as powerful as we are. Prison abuse? Of course: We're powerful. So powerful, some conspiracy theorists might say, that we even fake our own slaughters. But we don't, not ever that I could think of. I don't know, maybe I will be proven wrong, maybe the CIA (or CACI) killed Nick Berg, but I don't think so. I think we're still just afraid of being weak to a culture that is stronger than us simply because it has no fear of death, when the rejection of death is central to all that Western Culture considers beautiful. The Conspiracy theory is very good for packing beauty into the death of Nick Berg: it would hint at the start of a revolution, it would be the last blow to order and we'd finally be able to burst into anarchy and all its destructive and creative escapes, the secret wish of everyone living under a Capitalist Empire.

But it ain't happening. Nick Berg was slaughtered by a bunch of brutal fucks, inhuman in that death is nothing less than a political ploy. There are, indeed, Islamofascists in the world. We make up conspiracy theories because we know something deep down: that we have no idea how to fight that enemy. You can't kill martyrs by killing them, you can't teach lessons to those willing to die by slaughtering their neighbors, you can't make an example of a martyr by letting him be a martyr. It is such a foreign concept to us that we can't frighten people who have no fear of death. We need to figure this out. Quick.

John Kerry, Please Don't Kill Us 

One of Kerry's best lines during the primaries, in my opinion, concerned "Benedict Arnold CEO's" and "Benedict Arnold Corporations" that shipped jobs overseas while taking American Tax Breaks. Well, uhm: Flip. Flop.

But the Benedict Arnold line applied, you know, I called a couple of times to overzealous speechwriters and said "look that's not what I'm saying." - John Kerry, to the Wall Street Journal

Uh, John Kerry? Pull your shit together, please. When are you going to learn that if they're attacking you for flip flopping, you need to stop it with the flips and the flops, for christ's sakes. Also, it is soooooo tacky to blame "overzealous speechwriters" for stuff that you are saying. You read it, and you said it. If the speech writer is getting it wrong, don't say it.

Does John Kerry really care about this election? Because you know what, if he really cared he'd start making sure he didn't pass the buck. I am sick of the buck being passed. Bush created the culture for Abu Ghraib and you read what your speechwriters wrote so fucking own it and stop being anything that even resembles a weasel. Please, for the love of god, I know that I am stuck with you after looking at Dean and Clark and Edwards and then you, big dumb totally liberal but not gutsy enough to ever admit it John Kerry. I am doing my damnedest not to vote for Ralph Nader, I swear to god, you had better make this painless. I don't want Bush to lose. I want progressive values to win. Then, I want a guy in there who can actually lead, not just coast on not being Bush.

I'm not even concerned about your inability to articulate how awful Bush is doing. I know it's early and you're a closer. I trust you with winning the election. But I want you to win the values.

New York Times Sums Up the Week 

Watching President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld this week, it was hard to avoid the sinking feeling that they had already moved on from the Abu Ghraib prison mess and were back to their well-established practice of ignoring all bad news and marching blindly ahead as if nothing unusual had happened. That was the impression that emerged from Mr. Bush's disconnected performance on Monday, when he viewed photos and video stills of the atrocious treatment of prisoners by soldiers under his and Mr. Rumsfeld's command, and then announced that the defense secretary was doing a "superb job." It was stronger than ever yesterday, during Mr. Rumsfeld's road trip to Iraq, where he drew a curious parallel between himself and Ulysses S. Grant and announced his approach to the prison scandal: "I've stopped reading newspapers." - New York Times Editorial.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Coca Cola Announces Drink That Eliminates Coca Cola 

Okay not really, but that makes just about as much sense as expecting corporations that depend on wars for their profits to do a good job with helping to bring about the end of war, doesn't it?

Consider this: When Tammy Silicio took pictures of flag draped coffins- a move many felt would move the country against the war, therefore, bring the war to its end- she was fired. Meanwhile, contractors who were in charge of certain abuses at prisons? Still on the job.

Of course, a corporation doesn't have to fire you for perpetuating the conditions under which that corporation prospers. So it would come as no shock that the torture and abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was orchestrated by Corporations that are in charge of making sure things like that didn't happen. There's a high likelihood that three corporate employees were responsible for the "interrogations", which makes me wonder whether they will get a raise: With the outrage and fury over the torture in the arab world, certainly whatever company they are working for is going to have steady business for years to come.

The focus on Rumsfeld- who shares his burden of the responsibility- seems to do an injustice to the questions of why we are so comfortable with such an overwhelmingly privatized military? That's the "Bush" injection into this war, by the way- part of his "steady leadership" in the war on terror. Someone "get this", please.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Yes, Virginia, There Is Islamic Outrage 

Juan Cole sums up the response to the beheading of Nick Berg. You can bring that up the next time you call Ollie North ("Where is the outrage from all the [...] sheikhs, imams and mullahs?") or Rush Limbaugh, etc.

Two For One: Democratic Senate / HRC 

Right now, if you donate a minimum of $10.00 or more to the Democratic Senate Campaign committee, you're contribution will be doubled by a matching fund. You can do it through This Page. I did $12.50 for a $25.00 donation.

Also, the Human Rights Campaign for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered people (who are fighting Gay Marriage bans) are still running their two for one matching fundraiser here- the minimum is just $5.00 over there.

Corrente Gets the Pulitzer for Vetting 

A Must Read post over at Corrente.

1. Zarqawi, the man Bush is blaming Berg's death on, has a fake leg. No one in the video of Berg's killing has a fake leg.
2. The Government mistranslated "Those Who Sit and Do Nothing" (al qaed) as "The Base" (Al Qaeda), and uses that to make the claim that Al Qaeda's Zarqawi committed the murder.
3. And just in case all of this is conspiracy theory and it was Zarqawi, well, Bush screwed up and didn't go after him because he was distracted by Iraq War plans.

Go read it.

When the Vatican Gets Tough, The Republicans Get Going 

Interesting Turn of Events:

On Wednesday, the Vatican's foreign minister said about Abu Ghraib that it was "A more serious blow to the United States than Sept. 11. Except that the blow was not inflicted by terrorists but by Americans against themselves..."

You would think that would be of interest to Religious Conservative Republicans. But all of a sudden, the Pope is getting a little inconvenient.

"If there's anyone in the world who has no right to speak on sexual abuse, it's the Vatican," said Rep. King, an anti-abortion Republican. "This is the height of hypocrisy."

Of course, he's right. But since he's such a straight and narrow shooter, where was his condemnation of the hypocrisy of the Church for limiting its anti-Communion threats to pro-choice Democrats, but not to Pro-Choice Republicans?

Why Does Buzzflash Want Us To Look Like Idiots?  

I used to be a frequent reader of Buzzflash, which has sort of been one of many news-vetting sources that helps progressive bloggers find stories of note quickly.

Today, however, they've linked to an article that has this quote on the beheading of Nick Berg:

"Finally all that pressure being piled on by those abuse photographs has all but blown away." commented one of Mr Bush's advisers, "To be honest our spin doctors were working 24 hours a day trying to pull us out of that quagmire and along come our enemies and do it for us. I must remember to thank them... when I've had the marines fry their testicles and nail their asses back to last July for doing something like that to a potential Bush voter."

It's damning, and it's something no blogger would be able to resist mentioning. The problem is that the article is satirical. It might be obvious looking at it here, but at no point does Buzzflash acknowledge this, and it doesn't link to the original source- (which has obvious satire-indicators such as "related stories: Bush confused by Dictionary") it links to a repost of the article in a Conservative online magazine, The Free Republic.

By doing this, of course, Buzzflash is going to trick several lefty bloggers who trust Buzzflash as a vetting source into posting the quote and declaring outrage. This is the sort of thing that brings down the whole cause of progressive blogs. It undermines their credibility. Atrios did it too, with his rotten cropping of Joe Lieberman's speech to Donald Rumsfeld last week.

So there's the problem with blogs, then. When the big guys get sloppy, it ripples through the whole blogosphere.

What If We Leave?  

The question I am asking myself lately is, can it get much worse than this?

There is the torture of Iraqis, the gruesome beheading of Nick Berg. There is the loss of Iraqi cities to radical elements, uprisings on a scale that most of this wars orchestrators never seemed to have predicted. Americans are split fifty fifty between revulsion at the depths our culture has sunk in its victimized state, and those who love the abuse of power that victimization can rationalize. The talking heads tell us that we've got to stay the course, and I have been saying that no one else is offering an alternative position. But I want one. I want off this course.

What happens then, of course, depends on who you ask. It is a major embarrassment to American Power, to be certain. But that blow is inevitable. And I also have to ask: Why is that such a problem? Why do we need to be the "most powerful nation on Earth?" We can defend ourselves militarily. Of all the things we could choose: "The Most Idealistic Nation on Earth", "The Most Peaceful Nation on Earth", "The Most Progressive Nation on Earth", we get stuck with Power. Power that, once obtained, is not easily let go.

I want a weaker America. I want an America that stays in between its blankets of oceans and doesn't feel the need to get involved. Where we spend less on war and more on developing infatigueable natural energy. I want America to be on par with Greece or Spain, or Italy: The Superpower that Stopped.

I looked around to see what people think about the withdrawal option. Howard Zinn: To those who worry about what will happen in Iraq after our troops leave, they should consider the effect of having foreign troops: continued, escalating bloodshed, continued insecurity, increased hatred for the United States in the entire Muslim world of over a billion people, and increased hostility everywhere.

Some people say that leaving Iraq opens up our risk of a terror strike. I think it would reduce it. We're being attacked in retaliation for our presence, we're being attacked not because "our enemies can't stand freedom" but because they can't stand the moral hypocrisy of the United States. Chomsky has suggested a remedy:

"Reparations - not just aid - should be provided by those responsible for devastating Iraqi civilian society by cruel sanctions and military actions, and - together with other criminal states - for supporting Saddam Hussein through his worst atrocities and beyond. That is the minimum that honesty requires."

Reparations, and the abandonment of the notion that America is a failure proof stalwart of Democratic Integrity, would certainly hurt our carefully constructed position of global power. But it would make us stronger as the Idea Superpower. Democracies make mistakes. We saw it rear its head in Abu Ghraib. These are American soldiers, they vote, and many a right winger demanded that we of the left simply shut up out of respect for them. Had my wish been granted, they never would have been put into position to see what beasts they really are. I don't speak about every soldier, but I don't have to. To the people we are "liberating", all soldiers are the soldiers at Abu Ghraib.

A withdrawal will mean chaos in Iraq. But this is precisely what they demand. In the process of "liberation", there were moments of looting the museums, and America did nothing. Rumsfeld said it then: Democracy "isn't tidy." Riverbend: Chaos? Civil war? Bloodshed? We'll take our chances- just take your Puppets, your tanks, your smart weapons, your dumb politicians, your lies, your empty promises, your rapists, your sadistic torturers and go."

I feel like we can just pick up and leave. Everyone in the world wants us to. I'm really starting to wonder if it is not such a horrible idea after all.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

A Terrifying Day For Industry 

Wal Mart was just fined $3,100,000 for violating environmental standards at 24 stores in 9 states. They failed to apply proper run off standards to their construction sites, which can pollute waterways, which kills fish, hurts plant life and can distribute toxic material into the soil. Wal Mart's income last year was $256,329,000,000. Let's crunch some numbers to put it in perspective:

If you were an income earner who made $40,000 a year, and you were fined on the same ratio of income to penalty that Wal Mart was, you would pay a fine of fifty cents.

"We also believe that this agreement sets a new industry standard for developers and their contractors, who also make daily decisions which impact compliance," [Wal Mart Spokesman] Whitcomb said. Indeed, a shiver is sent through the corporate spine of America.

Blast From the Past 

Straight out of my own archives: June 13, 2002:

Several members of the Dutch parliament expressed concern over the [United States] Senate's approval on Friday of the so-called American Servicemembers' Protection Act.

"It will probably not get to the point where the U.S. will actually invade the Netherlands, but it is serious in the way that it is a warning the U.S. under no circumstances wants a trial of U.S. citizens" at the court, said Tom van der Lee, a spokesman for the Green Left party."

Yeah, that's right. The American Servicemembers Protection Act literally authorized the use of force against the Netherlands if an American ever faced a trial for war crimes in the course of an American War.


Remember when I asked how long it would be before we found out Bush lied, and knew about the prison torture situation earlier than he had claimed?

Oh, guess what?

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Tuesday that he and other top officials kept the president "fully informed in general terms," about complaints made by the Red Cross and others of ill-treatment of detainees in American custody. Powell's statement suggests Bush may have known earlier than the White House has previously acknowledged about complaints raised by the International Committee of the Red Cross and human rights groups about abuse of detainees in Iraq. - Detroit News / Baltimore Sun

I don't know if this counts. What I really want is to see that Bush had seen the pictures. But I'll take it.

Who Knew Planned Obsolescence Could Be So Much Fun? 

This "Cat and Girl" strip was brought to mind while reading this.

Basically, it's a funny little failsafe in capitalism and the free market. When you destroy something, it boosts spending, therefore, it's good for the economy. Much like the increase in the cost of oil that's been leveraged by the uncertainty of the Oil Supply situation because of the war waged for nonexistent WMD's by a lifetime friend of the Saudi Crude Regime. Of course, the money doesn't help us, but it helps the guys who bailed out Bush- Saudis get to charge $4 to $8 more per barrel of oil so they can beef up security (may I see the paperwork, please?) on their oil lines. The other reason for the elevated gas prices: 400,000 barrels of oil a day aren't reaching the market. But what's important to keep in mind is, that's not adding to the cost of producing the oil that is getting to the market. In fact, it's simply a matter of raising prices because they can- there's less supply, so the price goes up.

So when someone makes fun of John Kerry for proposing a gas tax, punch them in the face. That, metaphorically, is what GW did to Iraqis.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The Killing Moon / Will Come Too Soon.  

"I get the newspapers..." says Bush, "the New York Times, The Washington Times, The Washington Post and USA Today -- those are the four papers delivered," Bush said. "I can scan a front page, and if there is a particular story of interest, I'll skim it." -via the Washington Post

The Washington Times doesn't count, by the way. It's run by the Unification Church and Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Moon's political (and cult) philosophy is summed up well with this:

"Let's say a certain girl is totally free, running around and disturbing everybody else. She would have to be contained somehow in order to protect the welfare and peace of all the other people around her. If she were allowed to run wild she would destroy the peace of others. This is simple logic. Any society which accepts the abuse of freedom in its midst promotes disorder and will eventually decline. Do you want American society to fall into chaos? Certainly not."

The Korean Discipline Fetishist (we used to be able to call a fascist a fascist) is pretty proud of the Washington Times. Here's some totally lucid, not at all completely crazy comments he made back in 1981, when he first started it up:

"Now we are in the process of creating The Washington Times, which can disseminate the truthful viewpoint. Lies can be very believable; truth, on the other hand, may sometimes be hard to accept. But ultimately, truth will stand up after all the lies have fallen away. Then people will understand what Reverend Moon is all about. Every penny our movement spends is carefully evaluated in terms of achieving God's will. In order to erect a foundation of faith, each person must make some material offering. After setting a foundation of faith, a foundation of substance must follow. This means physical restoration on the human level-Cain and Abel must be restored. Abel must reach out to Cain and together they must come to God as united, loving brothers. Why is this necessary? The Old Testament era was the era of offerings, of laying the foundation of faith. The New Testament era was the era of the foundation of substance; Jesus came in the position of Abel in relation to the world, which was Cain. Once the foundations of faith and substance have been successfully laid, we can make the foundation to receive the Messiah."

In other words, he's totally dedicated to objective journalism.

Civilian Execution in Iraq 

Leah at Corrente says all that needs to be said. But I still should ask: What do the tortures of Abu Ghraib, the military death of 750+ American soldiers and the Beheading of Nick Berg have in common? It's simple: They all happened because they were there.

The War's Secret Victims 

In a world gone so crazy that, at a time of war, people get paid to ask questions like this, a study found that "...the number of non-American consumers who "trust" Coca-Cola had fallen from 55% to 52%, while McDonald's rating had slipped from 36% to 33%, Nike's from 56% to 53% and Microsoft had fallen from 45% to 39%. When people were asked about brands associated with "honesty", Coca-Cola was found to have declined from 18% to 15%, McDonald's from 19% to 14%, Nike from 14% to 11% and Microsoft from 18% to 12%.

Unfortunately, there is no question regarding what percentage think Coca Cola is "Good in Bed" or "A Good Listener." Bush may have sent hundreds to their death on the way to slaughter thousands, but as soon as he starts fucking with the profit margin, you know the Corporate Branch of the Government is going to want him ousted.

Ira Glass: FCC Target #2? 

Number one being Howard Stern, of course. In the New York Times Magazine this Sunday, Ira Glass laid out the case for why Stern should be defended, and why, if he isn't, Glass's show (This American Life) could fall down the same hole:

Here are just a few of the things we've broadcast on our show that now could conceivably result in fines of up to a half million dollars for the 484 public stations that run the program: assorted curse words, people saying "damn" and "goddamn" (a recent F.C.C. decision declared that "profane" and "blasphemous" speech would now come under scrutiny); various prison stories; and a very funny story by the writer David Sedaris that takes place in a bathroom and that violates all three F.C.C. criteria for "indecency." It's explicitly graphic in talking about "excretory organs or activities"; Sedaris repeats and dwells on the descriptions at length, and he absolutely means to pander and shock. That's what makes it funny.

Honestly, "blasphemy" now gets a fine from the FCC? Does that mean they can't play Nine Inch Nails anymore? What about XTC's "Dear God"? I just started listening to Stern again- he was picked up just two weeks ago by a small Maine classic rock station. He might just be the only voice on the radio that actually rips into Bush in a funny way with the full brunt of hostility that Bush deserves. For that, I'm grateful. As for covering a woman's ass with cream cheese and throwing bagels at it, I am a little less grateful.

Gay Rights: Buy One Get One Free 

Just a heads up that the Human Rights Campaign- an organization for promoting Gay, Lesbian Transgendered and Bisexual rights- is running a gift-matching fundraiser right now thanks to a wealthy supporter. This means that for every dollar you donate, you're actually donating twice as much. (A minimum $5.00 donation is required). You have to donate through this page for it to work.

Monday, May 10, 2004

A Blow To Abstinence Education 

In Britain, where the teen pregnancy rate is one of the highest in Europe, a government study found that encouraging students to experiment with oral sex actually cut down teen pregnancy rates.

"...sexual intercourse among 16-year-olds fell by up to 20 per cent" according to the study. The difference between here and there: The British Government is implementing a program nationwide as a result of the statistics.

The Bush-operated Religion and War Factory we call America, meanwhile, is all about "abstinence education" that doesn't work for anybody except Jesus, but in the meantime, actually telling kids to go down on each other does.

No Answers 

"An al-Sadr aide last week offered rewards for the killing or capture of coalition soldiers. Abdul-Sattar al-Bahadli also said that anyone capturing a female coalition soldier can use her as a slave." - Bloomberg

I think I don't really mention this stuff often because, like, of course the actual terrorists are a bunch of fucking assholes. I don't think people need it repeated over and over again that Terror is bad, that religious fundamentalism is bad, and that guys like Hussein, Bin Laden and Sadr ought to be stopped. But it's a question of our own ideals, too, and how exactly we're supposed to execute the "improvement of mankind" toward "Democratic Principles." It's a big question, and no one is really asking it in a way that makes any sense to me. We shouldn't have been in the war, yes. Saddam should have been stopped, yes. We shouldn't be blowing up mosques on one hand, Sadr has to go, on the other. We should catch Bin Laden and we were right to bring down the Taliban but couldn't we do that without taking down so much else? Where do we find the line, when it comes to "fighting evil"? I mean, Americans are torturing people in Prison cells as a victory march after an unprovoked war. You would think that we'd start to realize pretty soon that "Evil" is a tricker concept that can't exactly be eradicated from the planet...

No Comment 

"Katherine Harris, the former Florida secretary of state in the contested 2000 presidential vote, forgot to sign her absentee ballot for a local election. The oversignt means that Harris's vote in the Longboat Key election in March was not counted." - Washington Times

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Blogging = Terrorism 

I don't have to comment on this right now, but I figured I'd get it out there:

During their opening statement in Sami Al-Hussayen's trial at the federal courthouse in Boise, Idaho, prosecutors put a new spin on the slippery concept of "links to terrorism." The Idaho Statesman reports that they "displayed a chart" showing how a Web site that Al-Hussayen had helped maintain "could eventually access 20 other sites with ties to radical organizations." - Reason

Obviously, through the internet, could be used to "eventually access" sites with "ties to radical organizations." That's how the internet works. Under this rationale, linking to google can make you a potential terrorists, because you could "eventually access" sites that talk about the destruction of America. Now, it's not the only evidence against Sami Al-Hussayen, but what is scary is that it can show up as "evidence" at all.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Anti-Corporate Indie Internet Anti-Radio (for Anti-Corporate Indie Internet Anti-Journalists) 

So I started a little, which, if you have a medium to fast net connection, will allow you to stream a "mix tape" of sorts over the web. I put together a bit of a political mix for the time being, and that's probably all I'll do, but if I change it I'll let you know. In the meantime, enjoy! (It comes in a pop up, so you can listen and look at other sites). The best part is, it's quasi-legal.

Atrios ain't got this shit.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Abuse of Power Comes as No Surprise 

"...the man who directed the reopening of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq last year and trained the guards there resigned under pressure as director of the Utah Department of Corrections in 1997 after an inmate died while shackled for to a restraining chair for 16 hours. The inmate, who suffered from schizophrenia, was kept naked the whole time.

The Utah official, Lane McCotter, later became an executive of a private prison company one of whose jails was under investigation by the Justice Department when he was sent to Iraq as part of a team of prison officials, judges, prosecutors and police chiefs picked by Attorney General John Ashcroft to rebuild the country's criminal justice system.
" - NYTimes

God bless the New York Times, and the other media outlets, who are really looking at this story as a reason to look at the treatment of Americans within the American Penal System- not merely as an excuse to get these stories into public light, but because it also reveals tidbits like this one:

The corrections experts say some of the worst abuses have occurred in Texas, whose prisons were under a federal consent decree during much of the time President Bush was governor because of violence by guards against inmates and overcrowding. One such case involved a prisoner who was repeatedly raped by other prisoners with full awareness of the guards, who also allowed the prisoner to be bought and sold by prison gangs.

Not that this is a shock, I mean, for Christ's sakes, when you put two groups of white college students together for a couple of days and make one group the "guards" and the other the "prisoners" the same sort of shit happens. We always want to pretend it has to do with anything else but human nature, but it doesn't. It's human psychology. The challenge is how to organize ourselves in ways that these things cannot happen. All of the wisdom in the world stems from this.


Anyone want to take a guess as to how long it will be before we find out that Bush knew about what was happening at Abu Ghraib? Readers, feel free to take a guess below. We can reference this when the news finally breaks.

Defending Lieberman 

Joe Lieberman came under fire from Atrios for his comments (below) at the hearing, but I have to say, Lieberman just phrased his point in a really stupid way, but didn't mean what Atrios seems to think he said. This might be the first time I've ever defended Lieberman, but it's warranted: if you look at the first part of the statement, it looks like the Lieberman is going for the Angry 15 Year Old Contingent of the Republican Party:

LIEBERMAN: I cannot help but say, however, that those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11th, 2001, never apologized. Those who have killed hundreds of Americans in uniform in Iraq working to liberate Iraq and protect our security have never apologized. And those who murdered and burned and humiliated four Americans in Fallujah a while ago never received an apology from anybody.

Which, on its own, makes it look like he's saying that the Iraqi Prisoners were somehow guilty of the above crimes by virtue of being Muslims, and that we don't owe them anything. It looks like something Ann Coulter would say. But there's a bit more to what he says:

LIEBERMAN: So it's part of -- wrongs occurred here, by the people in those pictures and perhaps by people up the chain of command. But Americans are different. That's why we're outraged by this. That's why the apologies were due. (Full Transcript)

In other words, terrorists don't apologize, and that is why we needed to apologize- because what we did was so close to terrorism, that the only thing that can seperate us from them is the intensity of our response, by expressing those apologies and by acting with the proper outrage.

So lay off the Lieb. This time, anyway.

From Kennedy to Rumsfeld 

Ted Kennedy lays out the case against Rumsfeld:

KENNEDY: To the people in the Middle East, and too often today, the symbol of America is not the Statue of Liberty, it's the prisoner standing on a box wearing a dark cape and a dark hood on his head, wires attached to his body, afraid that he's going to be electrocuted. These incidents of torture and abuse resulted in a catastrophic crisis of credibility for our nation.

Now, since the beginning of the war, the International Committee of the Red Cross provided the Pentagon officials with reports of abuses at this prison, saying that some of them were tantamount to torture. They issued serious complaints during an inspection of the prison in October of 2003 and at several other times.

The State Department and the Coalition Provisional Authority appealed to you to stop the mistreatment of the military detainees. Secretary Powell raised this issue at Cabinet meeting and elsewhere, pleading with officials from your department, Mr. Secretary, to see that detainees were properly cared for and treated, and your department failed to act.

The military leadership put the troops in charge of the prison who weren't trained to do the job, and they assigned far too [many] prisoners to the prison than were required to do the job right, and they relied on the civilian contractors to perform military duties, as I understand, including the interrogation of Iraqi prisoners.

And as Senator Levin pointed out, the top-level Defense officials directed guards at the prison to set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of the detainees, a decision that directly resulted in the abuses. And the military leadership failed to respond in a systematic way even after it initiated the 35 criminal investigations into alleged mistreatment of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, 25 of these investigations involving a death.

In particular, in December of 2002, military doctors at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan ruled that two Afghan men in U.S. custody died from blunt force injuries. No one in the military has been held accountable for those homicides.

You and your senior leadership have shown, I believe, a disregard for the protection of the Geneva Conventions in detainee operations. In January, 2002, you were asked why you believe the Geneva Conventions do not apply to detainees in Guantanamo. You replied that you did not have the slightest concern about their treatment, in light of what has occurred in 9/11.

According to the New York Times, you have known about the graphic photographs, evidence of abuse in the Abu Ghraib prison since mid- January. You told President Bush about these reports of abuse shortly thereafter. And yet, rather than work with Congress to deal with the problem together, you and other top Defense Department officials have apparently spent the last three weeks in preparing the public relations plan.

Can you tell us what exactly did you tell the president about these reports of abuse in late January, and what did he say, and what did you do about it, and why month after month after month had to pass before anything has happened- and then we find out that the pictures came out and that the president is indeed angry? - Full Transcript

Firing the Donald 

Donald Rumsfeld, so you know, never read the 53 page report detailing the torture. Apparently he was too busy reading Bob Woodward's book and highlighting his own name. While Rummy's top general knew about it, and asked 60 Minutes to delay the revelations, Rummy actually talked before congress on what was happening in Iraq- without mentioning what they would see on the show a couple of hours after his testimony.

You might be happy to know that the DCCC has set up an online petition demanding the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. Kerry, Pelosi, Harkin and The New York Times are already calling for it, with Charlie Rangel looking at starting up the impeachment process. The Times is especially caustic and comprehensive in its demand:

This is far from a case of a fine cabinet official undone by the actions of a few obscure bad apples in the military police. Donald Rumsfeld has morphed, over the last two years, from a man of supreme confidence to arrogance, then to almost willful blindness. With the approval of the president, he sent American troops into a place whose nature and dangers he had apparently never bothered to examine. We now know that no one with any power in the Defense Department had a clue about what the administration was getting the coalition forces into. Mr. Rumsfeld's blithe confidence that he could run his war on the cheap has also seriously harmed the Army and the National Guard.

Exploitation Loves Company 

While soldiers were commanding a 70 year old Iraq woman to crawl around on the ground and let them ride her "like a donkey", according to a new British Investigation, the General in charge was busy making secret videotapes of showering Female soldiers under his command.

Breathtaking, isn't it?

Rush Limbaugh Wants You To Know Something 

Limbaugh on Iraq Prison torture:

CALLER: It was like a college fraternity prank that stacked up naked men --

LIMBAUGH: Exactly. Exactly my point! This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them- because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of "need to blow some steam off"?

Uh huh.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Round Two 

The Washington Post has obtained more photos of Iraqi Prisoners being tortured by American Soldiers. This means the last batch was not "an isolated case"- instead, it's fast becoming a sign of a depraved and exhausted military culture.

On top of torture, which are detailed above, there are other pictures: "The pictures obtained by The Post include shots of soldiers simulating sexually explicit acts with one another and shots of a cow being skinned and gutted and soldiers posing with its severed head. There are also dozens of pictures of a cat's severed head." The article also mentions a photograph of a woman who could be a prisoner (she wears a white wristband) lifting up her shirt and exposing her breasts.

One has to wonder if this is stemming from the extended tours of duty, the sort of Berserker PTSD that comes from prolonged stress in a traumatic situation where life and death is always getting blurred. In Vietnam you had soldiers pissing in dead Vietcong mouths, tearing babies apart- all from the sort of rage that develops from being in a constant state of high anxiety, in literal life or death situations for months at a time. The overall fascination with death- the skinning of a cow, the head of a cat- all of this is highly likely to be evidence of a hysteria that is coming from these prolonged tours of duty in a war that has seen increasing violence and casualties rather than a decrease. You simply cannot sustain any psychological leverage in the face of that.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

It's A Small World, After All (Part 2) 

A thread has erupted over at the BOP concerning a potential Disney Boycott for blocking the new Michael Moore film. I have a comment over there, but here's the gist of it:

* Disney is afraid of a backlash from organized Conservatives that can ruin the Disney brand
* Conservatives have used market pressures in the past to suppress free speech. They have become so successful that we now have anticipatory nervousness from corporations with politically risky products.
* Corporations have a heavy lobby in politics. The Media (and Telecommunications) Industry is to Democrats what Oil is to Republicans, only we don't go to war over movies, and everyone can boycott a film but no one can boycott gas.
* Striking back at Disney for buckling to a potential marketing pressure (being attacked by organized conservatives) only assists in the conservative powerhold. What we ought to do is hit back at the right, and make them feel economic consequences for supporting the organization of these conservatives.


Why not boycott Motorola or American Express for giving money to the American Enterprise Institute, as well as sharing executives on the council? These are the guys giving money to talking heads in favor of privatizing social security.

Boycott Publix Supermarkets for giving money to "Citizens for a Sound Economy", which trains and recruits activists for the cause of "free markets and limited government."

Boycott Coors Beer, which essentially established the Heritage Foundation.

The most important thing is to understand how these think tanks work: By stealth, and by disguising their corporate ties. When they want to put economic pressure on other companies products that might reflect an anti-business (or non-business-centric) ideal for America, these are the institutions they use to mobilize, misinform, and destroy the integrity of our government. We ought to hit *them* where it hurts, and not just the corporations that buckle under their pressure. Disney isn't the problem- the corporate funding of the "conservative movement" is the problem.

It's A Small World After All 

Michael Moore's new film, which criticizes Bush's connections to the Bin Laden Family, is being blocked by Disney- which operates a sprawling, billion dollar theme park in Florida, which is governed by Bush's Brother, Jeb. Disney has forbidden it's Miramax films subsidiary from distributing it. Watch me feign shock.

"Mr. Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel, said Michael D. Eisner, Disney's chief executive, asked him last spring to pull out of the deal with Miramax. Mr. Emanuel said Mr. Eisner expressed particular concern that it would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush's brother, Jeb, is governor."

So much for the free market values of anarcho-capitalism, eh, Bushies?

Buck Hill Nails It 

Buck Hill's David-Brooks-Style-Sociological-Point Construction Kit is right on.

If you aren't familiar with David Brooks, well, good. But here is just one example of precisely what BH is talking about:

"In this place people don't complain that Woody Allen isn't as funny as he used to be, because they never thought he was funny. In this place you can go to a year's worth of dinner parties without hearing anyone quote an apercu he first heard on Charlie Rose. The people here don't buy those little rear-window stickers when they go to a summer-vacation spot so that they can drive around with "MV" decals the rest of the year; for the most part they don't even go to Martha's Vineyard. The place I'm talking about goes by different names. Some call it America. Others call it Middle America." -The Atlantic

Yes, Brooks is an editorial columnist for the New York Times. Maybe it should make me feel dirty for liking Krugman- guilt by association- but Krugman doesn't make me want to constantly vomit on his wispy recollections of the "Two Americas" or subtle condescension to people who are actually capable of reading comprehension and critical thought. Brooks does, and, again, just go read Buck Hill.

War Crimes Might Just Merit A Stern Warning 

"More than two months after a classified Army report found that two contract workers were implicated in the abuse of Iraqis at a prison outside Baghdad, the companies that employ them say that they have heard nothing from the Pentagon, and that they have not removed any employees from Iraq. For one of the employees, the Army report recommended "termination of employment" and revocation of his security clearance. For the other, it urged an official reprimand and review of his security clearance.

But J. P. London, chief executive of CACI, one of the companies involved, said in an interview on Monday that "we have not received any information or direction from the client regarding our work in country - no charges, no communications, no citations, no calls to appear at the Pentagon."
-New York Times

So if you're a private contractor thinking about torturing another human being that happens to be a Prisoner of War, keep in mind, before you beat him to death or let a dog loose on a group of naked prisoners- you could, in fact, face penalties as stiff as losing your job over it. But as we can see here, it's pretty likely that even that won't happen. If you're a soldier, then things are a little different, but still pretty easy:

"In the last 16 months, the Army has conducted more than 30 criminal investigations into misconduct by American captors in Iraq and Afghanistan, including 10 cases of suspicious death, 10 cases of abuse, and two deaths already determined to have been criminal homicides, the Army's vice chief of staff said Tuesday. To date, the most severe penalties in any of the cases were less-than-honorable discharges for five Army soldiers, military officials said. No one has been sentenced to prison, they said." -New York Times

The Yes Men Crash The Heritage Foundation 

The Yes Men, a quasi-situationist group of artists operating more or less anonymously, crashed a Heritage Foundation conference in Chicago at the end of April.

If you're not familiar, the Heritage Foundation is a huge "Think Tank" for Republican, and more accurately, Anti-Democratic (big and small 'd') ideas. If you're wondering where FOX News find economists who approve of Bush tax cuts in wartime, or "Scientists" who think the Greenhouse effect could have benefits, they're probably paid for by the Heritage Foundation- and may even be broadcasting from a Heritage Foundation TV or Radio studio. In the amazingly orchestrated bombardment of misinformation, the Heritage Foundation is the Spectacle's power generator. Which is why the infiltration is nothing short of wonderful. It even provides a pretty much step by step process to crash your own Heritage Foundation event. If you can't muster the energy, they paint a pretty good picture:

We toast the whole thing with glass after glass of free wine and later, accompanying the Heartland Institute's lovely desserts, drinks. The alcohol makes us punchy. When a publisher from Sacramento described the beauty of "population control by market forces," we strain in vain to muster a suitable reply. We do better with the Cayman Islands booster guy: when he explains that the Cayman Islands is able to have such "enlightened" pro-business laws because it's basically just "a rock," we burst out: "How can we make this country a rock?!" Later he explains the importance of the Iraq war by asking rhetorically, "What if we hadn't gone into Grenada?" "What if?" we ask. "Then Grenada would have become a dependency of Cuba," he explains. All is now clear: "Right!" we exclaim. "And if we hadn't gone into Iraq, it would have become a dependency of the USSR." "Right!" the Cayman guy says, before realizing the absurdity of the concept. Finally, as we're leaving the hotel, we go up to the Chilean who had explained his country's miraculous economy and gush "That was fantastic! We want to bring Pinochet to America!"

This is the second really great political art prank I've seen so far this week, I really hope it blossoms.

Birthday Fundraiser Results 

Turns out we got $57.00 together for John Kerry for President for My Birthday today. (You can and should still Contribute if you haven't yet.) Thanks to everyone who gave, it actually helps me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile with this blog. You can take credit below, if you want, but otherwise I'll keep y'all anonymous.

Monday, May 03, 2004

John Kerry Birthday Party Update 

Atrios had better watch his table at the correspondents dinner: My John Kerry Birthday Party Fundraiser puts me squarely in the position of political fundraising powerhouse, having raised a whopping $0.00 in 12 hours!

At this rate, Kerry can't help but to win!

Bush To Iraqi Militants: 'Please Stop Bringing It On' 

WASHINGTON, DC—In an internationally televised statement Monday, President Bush modified a July 2003 challenge to Iraqi militants attacking U.S. forces. "Terrorists, Saddam loyalists, and anti-American insurgents: Please stop bringing it on now," Bush said at a Monday press conference. "Nine months and 500 U.S. casualties ago, I may have invited y'all to bring it on, but as of today, I formally rescind that statement. I would officially like for you to step back." The president added that the "it" Iraqis should stop bringing includes gunfire, bombings, grenade attacks, and suicide missions of all types.

-The Onion

Less Than 60 Shopping Days Till Iraq Implodes 

According to Newsweek, our good friend in the US-groomed Iraq Leadership, Ahmad Chalabi, has been getting cozy with Iran, including Ayatollah Khamenei:

"...some of his top aides have supplied Iran with "sensitive" information on the American occupation in Iraq. U.S. officials say that electronic intercepts of discussions between Iranian leaders indicate that Chalabi and his entourage told Iranian contacts about American political plans in Iraq. There are also indications that Chalabi has provided details of U.S. security operations. According to one U.S. government source, some of the information Chalabi turned over to Iran could "get people killed." -Newsweek

Chalabi says "nuh uh." But this is sort of how revolutionary politics are played- you play both sides, you put on the nice happy face with the superpower and you get the opposition killed in the back room. White House aids are already trying to distance the Bush Camp from Chalabi, which is kind of a tough sell, and will probably last about as long as my internet cache of that MSNBC article.

Fear and Loathing In The Police States 

Jakob S. Boeskov is a Dutch artist whose project, "My Doomsday Weapon", embarked on something akin to performance art as investigative journalism. He came up with the concept for a weapon: "The ID Sniper", which didn't fire bullets, or kill anyone. It simply shot tiny GPS tracking chips into the skin of protestors or suspicious persons, so they could be tracked and followed by the state via satellite.

That, for most conceptual artists, would be enough, but Boeskov went one step further: he went into a weapons trade show in China and posed as the CEO of "Empire North", a fictional Dutch Weapons Manufacturer that was looking for investors in this type of technology, including the pitch: "Using the ID Sniper, you don't get unwanted media coverage, with the ID Sniper we can...." I gesture as if I am holding an invisible ID Sniper, my right index finger pulling an imaginary trigger, pausing: "...MARK the subject with the GPS chip, and then...", I raise my finger, "...track down the demonstrator later on and then apply the necessary means".

It's really a pretty stunning piece of work, the whole diary of the weapons fair- mixing Communist Police States, Big Brother, Terrorism Anxiety, Weapons Culture and Foreign Investment with a nervous 25 year old Dutch artist- is a really fascinating read that doesn't go where you think it might.

"Before I came here, I had some vague ideas about this world being sort of like a James Bond movie -- filled with eccentric cynical inventors, and colourful, ruthless traders. I couldn't have been more wrong: this is reality, not James Bond. And these people are NOT cynical, ruthless evil people - they are basically nice people, who are absolutely one hundred percent convinced that they are doing the right thing. They believe that by pushing all their hi-tech killing equipment, they are fighting for freedom and democracy and all that bullshit. And that's what makes them so fucking scary."

Boeskov is trying to patent his concept for the idea so that it can never be used by any military.

John Kerry For President For My Birthday 

So it's my birthday tomorrow, and if you want to do something nice, here it is: Give a little love and rocket fuel to the Kerry Campaign. They are starting a huge ad blitz in a few weeks that'll dip into the campaign funds, so let's keep him on steady footing. Contribute here: give what you can, and add a dollar. (Even $7.50 is a help. Yeah, $7.50!)

I'll be able to track any donation you make through the above links and I'll let you know how much money comes in, which is, as we all know, directly proportional to how much you all love me.

You guys love me, right?

America In Decline 

The United States has started to lose its worldwide dominance in critical areas of science and innovation, according to federal and private experts who point to strong evidence like prizes awarded to Americans and the number of papers in major professional journals.- New York Times

Gee, I wonder if that has anything to do with our Evangelical Christian President?

Sunday, May 02, 2004

The Things We Do To Women 

Are you a girl about to marry a boy who will only love you if you are a virgin, but don't think the relationship is healthy enough to tell him the truth? It used to be the only solution was honesty and consequence and maybe the guy getting over his basic insecurity about sexual performance stemming from some ridiculous ingrained sense of perpetual competition that, unchecked, will more than likely end up coming out as domestic abuse. But not anymore! Thanks to miraculous ground being broken in broken hymens we have the miracle of re-virginization. Literally, surgery that reattaches the hymen.

"It's like a little white lie, but you do it for love," Vanegas [president of the Ridgewood Center] said."

Here's what the woman has to look forward to after spending $2000 and undergoing surgery to cover up evidence of their wretched and depraved sexuality- for love!: "It hurt even more than originally losing my virginity," she said. "My husband had no idea because all the stuff happened again that happens when you really are a virgin."

What more could a girl want on her wedding night?


That's a Work Ethic 

Thomas Hamill, the Mississippi Dairy Farmer turned Halliburton Supply Truck Driver turned American Hostage of Iraqi Militants who threatened to burn him alive if Americans didn't withdraw from Fallujah, has escaped from a Tikrit building where he was being held prisoner, unharmed. And: "He has spoken to his family. He is now ready to get back to work."

That's "getting back to work" as a Halliburton Truck Driver: the dairy business must be doing pretty bad these days.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Sunday Blog Outsourcing, Rally Round the Maypole Edition 

Corrente has one of the best write ups on the torture of Iraqi Prisoners. Amy has a round up of her own. So does Andante. And The Fulcrum documents the American Terrorists excuses for torturing prisoners: They weren't trained to know that they shouldn't hook a prisoner up to fake electrical wires and tell him he'd be electrocuted to death if he fell off the box. Easy mistake I guess. Otters has a similar point.

To balance out, Invisible Library is posting letters from Christian, a contractor working in Iraq. Interesting blog-within-a-blog sort of project, and definitely a good perspective to keep up with.

Edwardpig has got a good blog, always, but he's also launched Bush Campaign Lies which is a blog so good, I went ahead and redesigned the damn thing. (The template you see is done by yours truly. Awesome, yeah?)

Archy has got news on Irony and the Patriot Act: "The American Civil Liberties Union disclosed yesterday that it filed a lawsuit three weeks ago challenging the FBI's methods of obtaining many business records, but the group was barred from revealing even the existence of the case until now."

Speedkill is a year old. It's my birthday, too, on May 4th. Wish me a good one.

If you're in favor of women having rights and you're itching for a fight, go comment at Trish Wilson's blog, which has been overrun by mens-rights nazis. Poor, poor oppressed men. Tell they have girls names.

Rooks Rant is optimistic.

Subcontracting the Military 

Common Dreams has an article on the issue of hiring private companies to provide soldiers and mercenaries to the field in Iraq. International law does not apply to these individuals- so, for example, the guy in charge of organizing the prison where the torture and humiliation pictures were taken, cannot be put on trial for war crimes (no American can) but he also cannot be put on trial in the American Justice system. Essentially, what happens to him is decided by the corporation that hired him to run the prison.

"Rumsfeld has tried his utmost to privatize the US military. For him, following corporate strategy, downsizing means moving to "just in time" hiring, using private firms to provide what the military formerly did for itself. He has insisted that it makes no fiscal sense to keep and pay for a well-trained standing army, when the USA can purchase every sort of service on an "open market" whenever there is a need for military action. Why should soldiers, in Rumsfeld's view, cook for themselves, move their trash, provide supplies, run and maintain their technology - why not privatize these activities? Even in the case of actually military duty - guarding public officials from hostile attack, fighting guerrilla assaults - much of what soldiers traditionally do can be performed by the mercenaries hired by private firms. All of these services can be hired only when needed, and the army can be kept small, and hence inexpensive in terms of manpower. Weapons systems, produced at high profit by huge corporations, are another matter: cost efficiency here seems to be of little or no concern."

It's also interesting to note just who these companies are:

"The major subcontractor in Iraq is Halliburton; Halliburton provides extensive security and military support through its subsidiary, Brown & Root. Halliburton's former chief executive, of course, is the sitting Vice-President, Dick Cheney."

Looking to hire a small army of mercenaries yourself? No problem, now you can Do it Online, thanks to Erinys International, who "provide clients with a range of services and capabilities to reduce the impact of operating in volatile, uncertain or complex environments such as sub-saharan Africa and the Middle East."

There Are Worse Things We Could Be Than Victims. 

[I]n such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, not to be on the side of the executioners. - Albert Camus

From BOP comes more pictures of Iraqi Torture by Americans. These photos include various gang rapes of Iraqi women by American Soldiers. I don't even recommend looking at them, unless you absolutely need to verify that they exist. They are censored, but they're still sickening. Even more so when you watch them with the idea that this, somehow, is supposed to be Liberating.

I learned, somewhere, that in some Islamic traditions, that the notion of Hell is not a fiery cauldron. It's cold, it's a landscape of ice. The idea is that Hell is a place devoid of the warmth that comes from God's love. And so when they tell you, the cliche, "War is Hell," War is a place where warmth gives way to nothing but the consumption of human spirit and the absorption of human life.

You think war is just a bunch of explosions and debris that you can run from, or you think that war doesn't have permanent psychological scars on the mental landscape, you can think that we're there to "help the Iraqi people", that we are "building schools", that we're "liberators," that we can "stay the course". Of course, non consenting liberation doesn't exist. When Fox News tells you about the good that we're doing over there, and you start to believe it, you can look at those photos. Or you can watch the videotape- out there as well- of American soldiers shooting a man on the ground and cheering, telling the cameraman, "I can't wait to do it again."

You think War operates somehow like American Life does. Or that it's like normal safe day to day life but without the "safe" part, in a scope that no American can really begin to fathom. You think that people can live day to day, being shot at, without losing the breath of humanity. You think that America has no capacity for evil. Even I wondered about its capacity for evil, always excusing America because of its pursuit of nobility, its torch of hope etc etc etc. But this country isn't a torch of hope. It's just another rapist superpower.

This occupation really serves no purpose besides showing off the size of America's cock. We can spill infinite amounts of blood in vengeance for 9/11, as with any crime, punishment never has appropriate limits when it's made by an emotional cripple. America is an emotional cripple, run by an emotional cripple, an impotent monster desperate for Viagra and blood. We could kill everyone on this planet out of rage for 9/11. We've killed 1300 Iraqi's this month- people, might I add, with no connection whatsoever to 9/11, where we lost 3000 in one fell swoop. Was it horrible? Yes, but what degree of horror must we strive for to unspill that blood?

I say that there are worse things to be than victims, and those are the things we are proving to ourselves tonight, today, with those pictures. We're a nation of brutal fists and dicks, a nation of Michael Jackson and endless, endless sports channels, nascar races and men who barbecue not because they like it but because sponsoring killing with your labor is now what makes them men, a nation with no boundary to its fury and no remorse for its execution.

I believe in the secret life of Americans, living behind the Texan Evangelicals and the frustrated business men, a secret life where laughter can be spontaneous and authentic, instead of programmed at precise moments (between commercials, or in them)- a secret life where "news" still comes in through your eyes and your experiences and not just a television screen, where the warmth of something akin to god can still turn the grass green. War is not like us.

"...there are a hundred ways of being on the side of power. There is only one way to be radical. The wall that must be knocked down is immense, but it has been cracked so many times that soon a single cry will be enough to bring it crashing to the ground." - Raoul Vaneigem

Winning The War On Terror 

Good news, America! According to the State Department, almost no one is getting killed by terrorists anymore! Numbers of international terrorist attacks are at their lowest point since 1969. So GW is winning the War on Terror after all!

Because, you see, only "Thirty-five American citizens died in 15 international terrorist attacks in 2003". Now, to be fair, it's not 2003, but 136 Americans died this month alone fighting terrorism, over 600 in Iraq total. Not to mention 1,361 Iraqis (just last month alone). Why the disparity? If we're over there fighting terrorists, but the terrorists aren't the ones killing us, then... I'm confused?

"Most of the attacks that have occurred during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom do not meet the longstanding US definition of international terrorism because they were directed at combatants, that is, US and Coalition forces on duty. Attacks against noncombatants, that is, civilians and military personnel who at the time of the incident were unarmed and/or not on duty, are judged as terrorist attacks." By this standard, the attack on the USS Cole was not a terrorist attack.

I question why suicide bombers aren't considered "Terrorists", when GW always says "Terrorists" killed American Soldiers whenever he ventures out to acknowledge that anyone has actually died. So if Bush says they are terrorists when he alleges that we're fighting a war on Terror in Iraq, but then uses figures that discount the soldiers killed in Iraq to make the claim that we're winning the war on terror, well, that's a knife that just don't cut both ways.


The torture of Iraqi Soldiers- in the same palaces once used to torture other Iraqi Civilians- is appalling, but more appalling is the idea that anyone in this country might not care. The entire purpose of the liberation- once we worked through the "WMD" excuse, and the links to Al Qaeda Excuse- was to eliminate a dictator that used torture and rape rooms, "gassed his own people." To eliminate torture in that country and bring about a landscape of bountiful human rights and "friendly" oil reserves.

This is what humankind ended up getting instead.

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